Shit From Shinola: An Interview Of Curator Dylan Brant

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Dylan Brant, a young curator from New York, is quietly and maturely making a name for himself within the hallowed, oft impenetrable walls of the art world. Sure, his pedigree helps, but he surely has a knack for putting together some of the coolest art shows around. His show Rawhide at Venus Over Manhattan – which was co-curated by Vivian Brodie –  was a masculine cowboy romp through post-Modern Americana. Bandana wrapped, and pistol wheeling, the show included artists like Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha, but also queer artists known for their muscle toned homoerotica, like Bob Mizer and Tom Of Finland. And just recently, Brant curated a show called Heatwave, which is open now at the UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles. The exhibition, which includes artists like Dash Snow, Rob Pruitt, Nate Lowman, and Cady Noland, takes a more abstract route in its curatorial expression, but it is probably Brant's most personal. The artists involved are artists that he grew up with or knows personally - or knew personally, like the late Dash Snow. According to Brant, the show really came together after watching an interview of Lux Interior (of the Cramps) who talks about music having an inherently youthful energy - no matter the age of the musician or the audience. We stopped by the gallery to ask Brant a few questions about the show and gained a unique insight into his ambitions as a curator. 

AUTRE: You mentioned that you had an initial idea for this show that didn’t go through. Can you talk about that at all?

DYLAN BRANT: It’s complicated. It’s emotionally complicated. I still want to do that show, so I can’t talk about it.

AUTRE: But you had an initial idea and they were wanting to move onto another thing?

BRANT: Umm, it just..it was more like it wasn’t the right fit. It was a little too spazzy.

AUTRE: Too spazzy?

BRANT: I’m a spaz. I’m all over the place. Just to give you an idea, I like things that have a bit of a “Fuck you” sort of undercurrent to them and it was a lot of that and it was a lot of that with really big words and the words are often very redundant and actually mean absolutely nothing at the end of the day, so something that maybe I think is cool is just absolute mumbo jumbo.

AUTRE: Do you think it was too smart for Los Angeles?

BRANT: It’s not that it’s too smart. Okay, you know when you’re in college and you think you’re really hot shit because you’ve maybe had just like one semester and you’ve learned all this stuff and you start writing and using all these big words, but then when you look at that in hindsight, it’s just a lot of big words that mean nothing? That’s the majority of my ideas, so it’s not that it’s too smart, it’s not that it’s too smart for Los Angeles, it’s that it’s not smart enough.

AUTRE: So, then you arrived at Heatwave, and you mentioned that the idea for this show came to you after watching an interview with The Cramps?

BRANT: Yes, I love The Cramps, you guys love The Cramps, we love The Cramps. Lux Interior, I think is just an absolutely phenomenal singer. As far as a performance artist, as far as a singer and songwriter, I think really he epitomizes what I like about music, particularly rock and roll music. He gave this interview somewhere in Denmark or something and I found it on YouTube. He was asked a question by the interviewer: “Who is the audience of your music?” and he sort of defined it as, you know, it’s teenagers and young people and stuff. From that, the guy responded, “well you’re old so how can you justify making youth music at your age?”  He responds by basically going into rock and roll music inherently has this youthful energy. So ultimately, “real” rock and roll is about youthful energy and spirit and not about your age. When I was thinking about ideas for the show, I was kind of thinking to myself, what are the things that really mean something to me? I feel there’s a vitality that innately attracts me to music and in this case, art. So I began to think to myself, "Who are the artists that I've really liked over the last six to seven years?"

AUTRE: Like, what artists?

I remember my first major exposure to art. I remember the first time I saw a Rob Pruitt painting and learning about the history he had with Leo Castelli. I really remember for the first time actually seeing Jonathan Horowitz’s mirror piece and learning about his home and entire history. I remember for the first time seeing Josh Smith’s work that really was like “woah that’s so cool” and I just thought it was so tough and bad-ass. I remember the first time I saw Joe Bradley’s work and I thought it totally sucked and then I ended up really liking it. I remember the first time I saw Cady Noland’s work and it absolutely blew my mind. It was actually here in Los Angeles at a collector’s house. She for me is the queen, she’s everything. She is the most amazing, the most influential artist in my eyes. So the conception of the show started with Good Music For Bad People, it’s a great record, that interview and it started with that Cady Noland piece you see in the show. I wanted to do a show with Cady Noland involved in it and that sort of expanded into that Raymond Pettibone piece over there and then eventually expanded into the Dash Snow pieces. Do every single one of these pieces perfectly exemplify the spirit that I am talking about? I am not going to say ‘yes it does’ because that’s a really broad, sweeping statement that says ‘I made a perfect show’ and I don’t think there is such thing as a perfect show.


AUTRE:  So is music a main drive for most of your curatorial efforts? I mean, the Raw Hide show you did at Venus Over Manhattan - what were you listening to?

BRANT: Marty Robbins?

AUTRE: Yeah, like old country music.

BRANT: Yeah, Marty Robbins, Neil Young, Merle Haggard, Mama Tried, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Junior. Yeah, music and film predominantly. Everything starts as an X factor for me. Music was the first way I understood creativity. From there, you know, all of us have learned about art history and then kind of fell in love with that. But every time I think about how you do something, you know, it’s like making a record or playing a song or something like that and it would translate from there.

AUTRE: Yeah, music creates this really interesting energy that sort of follows you everywhere you go. Do you have a particular type of music that you make?

BRANT: Nothing that’s worth remarking on that’s inherently good, no [laughs]. But my uncle that I am staying with, Mike Andrews, is a very good musician, a very good musician and he’s a professional musician. My father Tommy Andrews is also a very good musician and a professional musician. My grandmother was a piano teacher and an opera singer. I don’t know, I wish I had some sweeping, magical, prolific thing to say but no...



AUTRE: No, I think it’s hard to talk about because it’s sort of abstract.

BRANT: Well, it’s the art of the people, the most emotional, and it’s one of the rawest forms of expression. So if you sort of consider that, in the respect of an art context, which I feel like in many ways is a captured moment, you know, that innate drive of creation, there is a singular x-factor within all the creative formats. So you know, how you get there and what it translates to, it’s like, ok cool whatever, that’s your thing. But we all have a way to kind of getting there and mine is music.


AUTRE: Yeah, and again, Raymond and Cady, I am sure in their studios, there’s like endless amounts of music blasting throughout their lives.

BRANT: Yeah, Joshua loves hip hop, Rob Pruitt loves Miley Cyrus, Joe Bradley was in Cheeseburger, Julian Schnabel played bass in a band for a little bit. Uhm, Cady Noland I am not sure about and Dash Snow I am not sure about. But Spencer Sweeney in the back, he’s a drummer. He owns Santo’s Party House. So yeah, I never even thought of that, you could say that.

AUTRE: So if you were listening to a lot of Prefab Sprout, what kind of show would you curate?

BRANT: Prefab Sprout is fucking great. I love their production style.

AUTRE: It’s cheesy but it’s so good at the same time.

BRANT: That’s the coolest fucking question ever. Let me actually think about that seriously… I would probably curate a show about commercials or I would do performance, like ballet.

AUTRE: Or?

BRANT: I don’t know. I actually really think that that record Steve McQueen is a really good record. It’s really strong and I get a lot of crap for listening to them.

AUTRE: But the lyrics… It’s profound. There’s something profound about it.

BRANT: Dude, it’s so cheesy, come on. It’s not like Talk Talk or Spirit of Eden or something like that where it’s, you know, oh my god, these revolutionary production techniques and stuff. It’s just kind of like early, college rock radio from late 80s, early 90s…

AUTRE: You also worked at the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. What was that experience like? What did you learn from that experience?

BRANT: What did I learn from that experience? Art’s awesome. This could actually be something that you could really do and make into a career which I’d never thought was a real possibility. I never thought being in the arts period would be a real possibility. So, that was cool. Also, being at the Peggy Guggenheim and experiencing a different country and culture was mindblowing. I learned a whole lot; it was the whole cultural experience. That country’s a whole lot better than the U.S.A., intellectually.

AUTRE: Yeah, I mean it’s almost more important to have a culturally impactful experience, especially when you’re younger. How old were you when you were doing that?

BRANT: Sixteen.

AUTRE: Sixteen—so you were super young.

BRANT: Yeah I didn’t know shit from Shinola; I still don’t know shit from Shinola, but definitely didn’t know anything then. I just had this opportunity and was like “okay.” I mean the first time you do performance art it’s like “oh my god, I can express myself and be okay;” the first time you write an article and somebody is like “oh, this isn’t that bad” and you’re like “what do you mean it isn’t that bad?” My expectation level is that it’s just going to be terrible so when it turns out decently well and it’s well-received, my first reaction is to try that again.

AUTRE: Interesting. You also grew up around a lot of art—

BRANT: I grew up around a tremendous amount of art, that’s a fucking understatement. My father Peter is without a doubt one of the most intense critical eyes I’ve ever encountered in my life. Being a young person who had the opportunity to go to art openings and see the things he saw and not understand what was going on and, in hindsight, processing and understanding that all the stuff was made: this really crazy. As a little kid there was this game that we’d play where if I named one of the artists right I would gain a dollar and if I named one of the artists wrong I would lose a dollar. Seriously. Straight-up being brainwashed. Going to the Warhol Estate when Vincent Fremont still ran it and seeing that in the 90’s, being able to see Tony Shafrazi’s gallery in Soho when it was sort of at it’s height and peak, being able to see the Last Supper show that Warhol did at the Guggenheim when it was still downtown, being a little kid and seeing...I could go on and on...when Kenny Scharf still had his kiosk in Soho.

AUTRE: So you caught the tail end of a generation.

BRANT: Tail end? No, it just keeps going. Seeing all the early Richard Prince photography and works pop up in the early 2000s. He and my father starting to collect that again, seeing the paintings, and seeing him leave [Barbara] Gladstone and go to Gagosian, find out who he was, meeting Urs Fisher after he did the “Who’s Afraid of Jasper Johns?,” getting to know him as a person, getting to know any of these people in this room, it’s exceptional. Dash Snow, of course. I mean, [my dad] is the consistent X factor in my life of why I got into art. There is absolutely no way I would have ever, ever, ever, been interested in art if it wasn’t for him. I would have totally just been only interested in music and I’m a mediocre musician, so that for me was the X factor when I realized, “Oh my god, I could actually work in the arts and maybe I could be a catalyst for artists rather than be an artist myself.”

AUTRE: That’s interesting because most people aspire to be the artist but there’re so many other positions in the art world that are just as important, it’s amazing.

BRANT: Collectors, advisors, dealers, museum people. It’s a fucking eco-system. You don’t get somewhere just by being a good artist, there are tons of good artists. A lot of luck and a lot of really good, smart, thoughtful dealers. All these guys really, I mean Gavin Brown is pretty much one of the most important dealers in New York City for twenty years and going strong. Luhring Augustine - one of their early artists was Christopher Wool. Just think about that shit.

AUTRE: Yeah, it takes a lot of experience. And intuition, too.

BRANT: Yeah. And seeing things. It’s like getting married, working with an artist for a lifetime and I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment.

AUTRE: I think we could talk about art forever.  

BRANT: I know, isn’t it kind of sad?

AUTRE: It’s endless.

BRANT: I know, it’s like a snake eating it’s own tail.


Heatwave will be on view until April 18, 2017 at UTA Artist Space, 670 S. Anderson, Los Angeles. text, interview and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram:  @AUTREMAGAZINE


Baby, I Like It Raw: An Interview Of Curator, Photographer and Artist Marie Tomanova

There are two narratives related to the relationship between the United States and Russia running parallel to one another in contemporary culture. One, of course, is related to renewed political tensions that have arisen as a result of the allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Putin and the Kremlin to rig the 2016 election in The Donald’s favor. The other is all about aesthetics. Designers like Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia of Vêtements and Balenciaga as well as the brands’ stylist Lotta Volkova have led a seismic shift within the fashion industry at large by bringing post-Soviet aesthetics into the Western limelight. All of a sudden, bootleg sportswear brands, Cyrillic graphic texts, and Russian rock musicians like Zemfira are being fetishized by fashionistas and streetwear obsessed skateboarders alike. Somewhere between the political demonization and the fashion fetishization, however, lies a whole generation of youthful Russian artists making work that puts their specific view points into context. Baby, I like it Raw, an exhibition of video and photography (on view at the Czech Center in New York) curated by Czech Republic-born fine art photographer Marie Tomanova and art historian Thomas Beachdel, captures the spirit of a generation of artists trying to make sense of the Westernization of their Eastern Bloc homes while holding onto one spiritual truth: youth is eternal.

The show features a wide variety of subject matter united by a coherent aesthetic; most of the work utilizes the snapshot style of progenitors like Larry Clark and Nan Goldin capturing raw and human moments of youthful intensity. Tomanova herself contributed prints of an archive of diaristic photographs she had taken on an early cell phone camera (interesting that cell phone photography has become a vintage art form) while still living in the Czech Republic. Russian artist Slava Mogutin, perhaps the best known artist in the exhibition, contributed snapshot photographs full of nude Russian boys having good laughs posing for the camera. Ukranian art collective Gorsad goes straight for the shock with a series of staged photographs of very young looking teenagers in pseudo-fetishized poses. In Hungry Boy, a video piece by Sam Centore, a young man chugs a Gatorade and then converts the bottle into a makeshift bong to get lit; a simultaneous embracing and deconstruction of capitalism itself. The exhibition is heavily influenced by Russian photographer Boris Mikhailov who has for decades captured the beauty and pain of his Russian subjects. Baby, I like it Raw has a distinctive ‘Russian-ness’ to it: the brutalist architecture, the open spaces, the harshness of the landscapes and lifestyles. But it also emphasizes that certain things; art, culture, drugs, sex, parties and youthful exuberance; are not inherently geographical. [Thomas and I] wanted to show that the youth in the East is the same as youth in the West,” says Tomanova. “Youth is global.”

Marie Tomanova graduated with an MFA in painting when she decided to move to New York. Though she had always taken pictures, it was a trip to Francesca Woodman’s career survey at the Guggenheim that influenced her to pursue photography as an art form; it resulted in a series of lush and melancholic self-portraits largely set against a natural background. Tomanova and I spoke at length about Baby, I like it Raw, the infiltration of Russian aesthetics into Western culture, creepy wannabe New York fashion photographers, and Nan Goldin.

ADAM LEHRER: Specifically within the fashion industry right now, you have designers like Demna at Vêtements and Gosha, and Soviet aesthetics have become the source of much fetishization in the West. Were you trying to bring some context into those aesthetics that have infiltrated the fashion industry and Western culture?

MARIE TOMANOVA: You can see in America that there are lots of things inspired by the aesthetics of the east. I remember in high school my boyfriend was wearing adidas and nike and all of it was fake! Some of it was even misspelled! But it was about having that brand! That's what inspires Gosha.

LEHRER:  Demna, too. Vêtements has embraced bootleg versions of its clothes.

TOMANOVA: Of course! It created this massive craving for the west. But all of a sudden, it changed. In the show, we are looking at what it means to have that sudden of a change, and how all these people are now encountering Western culture and building their identities through it. 

LEHRER: I wrote a piece about Vêtements for SSENSE last year; I was trying to understand why this brand has gotten so much heat. I pointed at something Demna said in an interview with 032C, where he talked about how the wall came down while he was a child in Tlibisi and suddenly Western brands, music, art and culture flooded his head space. But now, with the Internet, we are all flooded all the time. So it’s like that post-Soviet cultural idiom predicted digital culture.

TOMANOVA: We didn’t see the natural evolution of culture; it came in like a flood. We utilized a different angle than what we see in mainstream media regarding the relationship between Russia and America. We wanted to offer a perspective on the Russian people: who they are, where they are, what they do, how they live. 

I co-curated the show with Thomas who is an art historian; it was interesting seeing that American view on the same subject matter. Some of these images were so exotic to him, and I thought they were so normal. Easterners and Westerners see things differently in a lot of ways.

LEHRER: I look at someone like Lotta Volkova and think, “This girl looks so fucking cool!” The whole grime-glam rave punk thing.

TOMANOVA: And I think, “This is what my mom dressed like. (laughs)” But very beautiful, nonetheless.

LEHRER: I want to talk about Boris Mikhailov, who was an influence on the exhibition, and why his work so deeply resonates with you.

TOMANOVA: There are lots of artists that we could put in the show, but we didn’t just want it to be Eastern Bloc artists. We were going for a specific look: non-decorative, realistic and gritty. Mikhailov shows real people in real situations. He shows how sad life is and its dark moments. Real humans. He would also shoot old people; not just cute young kids. I love that picture of that old couple embracing each other half nude. It’s sad, but sweet that they are together.

We wanted to show artists that show the real moments. Even the more staged work of Gorsad: it’s about showing the feelings, attitude, and dark side of life that is always there but not talked about. It’s taking the dark side out of the taboo.

LEHRER: Mikhailov was relentlessly persecuted by his government, and I was curious if you ever felt any censorship before you moved here?

TOMANOVA: No, I haven’t. But I wasn’t doing nude photography when I was in Czech Republic. I was a painter. And in Czech, nude paintings are fine but nude photographs are not. At the same time, the Czech Republic is not as concerned with censorship as the States are. After being here for six years, I had never thought being nude was wrong or that taking nude pictures was wrong. Here in The States you get so much pressure doing nude photography, even though it’s the most natural state of the body.

LEHRER: Even my girlfriend will see me on the train reading Purple or 032C and nude photos come up and she freaks out going, “People can see that!”

TOMANOVA: (laughs) People are terrified of being nude here, even in their own environment.



LEHRER: I think it’s half old fashioned Christian morals that still are drilled into peoples’ heads and body anxieties that are encouraged from literally everywhere. I’m sure if someone even took my nude photos, I’d be cool with it but a part of me would look at my little beer gut and hate myself.

TOMANOVA: When I moved to New York, I needed a job and money so I volunteered for this “shoot.” It was really sketchy. I was posing half-nude for six guys in this garage with old cars and motorbikes.

LEHRER: Oh, no.

TOMANOVA: It was a Christmas-themed shoot. I was posing half-nude with a candy cane. They were telling me, “give me that orgasmic look.” (laughs) I’m praying these pictures never appear anywhere. It was terrible photography. I decided then to not pose nude for anyone other than myself. I want to control my own image. 

LEHRER: Did that influence you to start doing self portraits?

TOMANOVA: Sure, yeah, and also to be more aware of controlling my own image.

LEHRER: I read an interview with you where you said that when you started doing self-portraits, it was hard for you to find people to sit for you…

TOMANOVA: I didn’t have any friends! (laughs) I finished my school, and I had an MA as a painter. I realized I couldn’t make any money as a painter. So I went to America as an Au Pair. Everything was new. I was overwhelmed and feared losing myself. I felt like photography was going to help me preserve that and bring something new to myself.

LEHRER: And in your self-portraits, I see someone trying to find their way in a new life. By contrast, this show is bringing you back to your roots. Is that accurate? 

TOMANOVA: In a way, when I came to the States I was doing exactly what I was doing at home: taking pictures all the time. Going through that old cell phone archive, I realized I wasn’t even considering it photography, but that’s what I was doing. And then, I saw Francesca Woodman’s show at The Guggenheim and I was so in love!

LEHRER: Yeah, her work has that effect. Emotional.

TOMANOVA: Yeah. I realized, ‘Why am I not doing photography.’ And then I started pursuing it more seriously. There is a movie about her on Netflix, "The Woodmans."

LEHRER: I think a biopic starring Kristen Stewart as Francesca directed by Gus Van Sant, would be amazing.

TOMANOVA: That sounds good!

LEHRER: But I see that, her work had so much poetry, and your pictures have a melancholy to them. Do you think the images were melancholic because you were feeling alone?

TOMANOVA: The early pictures were melancholic. But it was also about sitting in front of a camera and finding out who I am. They were about self exploration. They weren't staged as much as they were finding places that resonated with me; if they reminded me of home or elicited a certain feeling within me. So whenever there was a place that I like, I just took a picture there. I did a series of self-portraits in nature because it’s important for me to escape the city. There’s no fashion involved. It’s just my body and belonging in nature.

LEHRER: Is Francesca Woodman your favorite artist?

TOMANOVA: Actually I would say my all-time favorite artist is Nan Goldin. I’m sure you could tell my little slide show was a little inspired by [The Ballad of Sexual Dependency slides].

LEHRER: (laughs) I definitely thought of it while it was rolling in the gallery. I totally wish the slideshow and music format would come back. 

TOMANOVA: You get more feeling when you see photos in a video like that. I saw Ballad of Sexual Dependency many times, like 15 times. 

LEHRER: I had had the book forever, but I never saw it with the music until I saw it at MoMA recently. And she has music that I love in there: James Brown, The Velvet Underground, Nina Simone.

TOMANOVA: I can sit there for 45 minutes and I’m amazed every time.


Baby, I Like It Raw: Post-Eastern Bloc Photography & Video will be on view until April 4, 2017 at Czech Center New York Gallery. text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Fighting For Love: An Interview Of New Media Artist, Young Polemicist And Kemetic Yogi, Tabita Rezaire

 

text by Keely Shinners

images by Tabita Rezaire

 

Tabita Rezaire could call herself many things––a Berlin-Biennale-exhibiting new media artist, a young polemicist, a Kemetic yoga teacher. Instead, Rezaire prefers to call herself a “healer-warrior.” Walking into her Yeoville flat, high on a sacred hill on the eastern side of Johannesburg, she offers me tea from her impressive apothecary of herbs, spices, and dried flowers. We sit down on her straight-from-2002 pink fuzzy love seat, chatting, listening to the new Frank Ocean album. She offers me Carmex for my chapped lips (Johannesburg is drying out my skin), and when she begins to talk about her artistic process as a process of healing, that powerful word, “healer,” lives up to the artist who utters it. Not in the exotifying sense of the "benevolent medicine woman," but clever, powerful, and without exoneration.

As we converse, Tabita is paying attention to my every word. She calls me out when I ask about “postcolonial digital space,” the flippant amnesia of such a loaded prefix. She questions why I would call her work “futuristic,” as if passing over the history and the cultural exigence that informs her art towards some vague, utopian “imagination of the future.” And she’s right. She’s a warrior. “You have to fight, fight, fight…” she insists, in order to “spread love and light.”

She says, “My work is a diagnostic.” Rezaire is in the business of identifying sicknesses we carry within us everywhere we go—our histories, our implicit and explicit prejudices, our language. She is able to see through the veils of the “free, open Internet” to its capitalist underbellies, using the very tools of the Internet to undermine it. Rezaire is calling us out on the spread of colonial viruses—on our computers, in our history books, in our words.

KEELY SHINNERS: So the info on your website says you are a “new media artist, intersectional preacher, health practitioner, tech-politics researcher, and Kemetic/Kundalini Yoga teacher. Can you tell me more about those practices and how they relate to each other?

TABITA REZAIRE: They are just different tools to serve the same mission on different plains: emotional, mental, spiritual, historical, political and technological. My work/life/purpose is searching for technologies to help us thrive and walk towards a state of soundness. It’s about healing.

SHINNERS: So you would say you’re more of a healer than an artist?

REZAIRE: That’s the same for me (maybe not in general). Both deal with feelings as raw material: their own, those of their people and those of their times. For a healer must be able to go through the wounds, their own first, and from that place surface with the powerful knowledge of pain, and grow out of/from it, then guide others to do so. It is transforming a state of unbalance into a more sustainable place, or maybe finding balance in discomfort. Both move energy, and can be truly transformative if the person, community, and times are ready. Ready to do the work it demands. I’ve used the term “healer-warrior,” cause healing is a battle with yourself and the world, you have to fight, fight, fight, to be able to love, love, love. Love yourself unconditionally and fight all that keeps you from loving yourself.  Once you love yourself you can start loving, respecting and caring for people, for communities, for life.

SHINNERS: On the question of health, do you see art as healing? In what way? Is it therapeutic for you, the audience, or both?

REZAIRE: To be honest, it sometimes gives me more anxiety than anything else. I guess that’s because of the industry, not the practice itself. My art practice is about sharing my own healing journey, spiritually and politically; trying to figure out shit or why I feel like shit. To heal, you first need to understand where it hurts and why. How to carry what must be carried. I guess that’s what I’m interested in. As you heal yourself, you heal generations before you and generations to come.

SHINNERS: So it stems from an illness?

REZAIRE: We are all dis-eased, and rightly so, as we’re children of toxic environments.

 

 

SHINNERS: What is E-Colonialism? Colonialism is centuries, centuries old, but the Internet is a whole new realm of possibility. How do the temporalities and functions of colonialism and the Internet overlap?

REZAIRE: I don’t think it is different temporalities. If we’re not living under colonialism per se, we’re living in its legacies, which are still omnipresent. The politics and architecture of the Internet came from the same heart; it’s the same narrative of exploitation being written over and over again, with the same people being exploited and the same people benefiting from it all. There’s this quote I love from Sardar who said back in 1995 “The West desperately needs new places to conquer. When they do not actually exist, they must be created. Enter cyberspace.” That‘s so deep. It’s not a domination based on land – which still exist for all the people whose lands are still occupied and plundered – but one based on people’s dependency and conditioning through the use of digital technologies. The Internet is molding us into global subjects, which reads to me as a newly designed colonial subject.

SHINNERS: Or a capitalist subject.

REZAIRE: Same story, the colonial enterprise is a capitalist one. E-colonialism controls our minds through our consumerist desires. We don’t realize we’re being manipulated, controlled, watched, monitored and exploited. We’ve become so trustful of demonic powers. Even if we know, we don’t care - or not enough to let go of the comfort and benefits it grants us (some of us). We accept, and worse, enjoy an abusive framework they’ve created for us. It’s scary.

SHINNERS: If you could rid of those powers, the Internet as a means of communicating globally could be a useful tool. Do you see a possibility of postcolonial digital space?

REZAIRE: I’m still waiting for that postcolonial life, as postcolonial societies have integrated ‘colonial’ hierarchies into their orders. Maybe the term decolonial offers more space, it’s a different practice, one that tries to unlink and disengage from Western authority. It asks: how do you become your own center? as opposed to existing within a “minority,” “periphery,” or “3rd world” rhetoric.

Decolonial Internet? I don’t know. The Internet is built on violence, literally. I’m currently making a work on the relationship between undersea cable layouts and colonial shipping routes. The history of our connectivity is entrenched in colonial history.

SHINNERS: There’s so much entrenchment.

REZAIRE: Yeah. Under the sea, lie so many traumas. It’s like a graveyard for so much history and loss, yet water is healing. The Internet is reproducing that duality, of erasing non-Western people and histories while providing space and tools for remembrance and celebration.

SHINNERS: How does spirituality relate to your art and healing practice?

REZAIRE: Spirituality is about connection. It’s about remembering how connected we were, we are, and how connected we can be. It nurtures a connection to yourself, your spiritual beings and ancestors, to the earth and the universe and helps build connections to each other in a meaningful way. That’s what spirituality is for me. That’s why it’s related to technology. Digital technology wants to connect us, but it doesn’t do it very well, because it comes from this Western anguish. We had the powers to connect (some still do), through telepathy, communicating with plants and ancestors, and channeling information through dreams or meditation. We have access to everything that has been and everything that will be. But we just shut down because of the way we live, think and feel or have been forced to. We’re disconnected. That’s the diagnostic. That’s the contradiction we live in, disconnection in our ultra-connected world. So, I strive for connection in my spirituality.

SHINNERS: Why do you use self-portraiture in a lot of your work?

REZAIRE: That’s not what I’m doing. Yes I use myself, but I’m just a channel to communicate and share information; a messenger. I’m working on a self-portrait series though…

SHINNERS: I’m really interested in the images you use in your work, like gifs of unicorns and galaxies and shit.

REZAIRE: I never used a unicorn.

SHINNERS: [Laughs.] You’re like, “Oh no, I would never do that.” You pair these images with what I think are really abstract concepts of decolonizing digital space, reimagination new space, architectures of power. Is your aesthetic a means of making your content more accessible?

REZAIRE: These might be abstract concepts for you, but they're very real. In terms of aesthetic, popular culture is also what I consume, so it feeds my imaginary, Im also interested in its function and power. People often ask me if it’s ironic. It’s not, but humorous yes.  Well I guess I use the language of the Internet to speak about the Internet so the content led to the form somehow.

SHINNERS: Looking at your stuff online, at first glance, you think, “Oh, this looks dope.” That’s superficial, obviously, but it draws you in. Then you start reading and you’re like, “Ok, now I have to confront my whiteness, my Westerness, here we go.” I didn’t feel like it was ironic. It was pulling you in.

REZAIRE: It’s a strategy, for sure.

SHINNERS: I was introduced to your work by reading A WHITE INSTITUTION’S GUIDE. I showed it to my friend this morning and she said it was like “guerrilla girls but less stale.” It seems like you’re doing the same thing, calling out the art world on its foundation of white heteropatriarchal bullshit. I’m interested in this because you’ve seen a lot of success, being in the Berlin Biennial this year, exhibiting in solo and group shows all over the world. How do you navigate being in that space all the time? Would you call yourself a “guerilla artist,” trying to subvert the institution?

REZAIRE: It’s hard. But I’m trying to move away from that inner conflict of constantly questioning what it means for me to be a part of an industry I despise? Or that despises me even more. Am I selling out? Am I a hypocrite? Does my work become meaningless? Is my mission co-opted? All those questions. At the same time, I need and want to sustain a practice. That’s very real.

SHINNERS: You have to survive.

REZAIRE: Yes, but beyond this, what I want to do and keep doing is making work. That’s my purpose. So, it’s about finding ways to sustain my practice. How will I be able to do what I want to do? Yes, the art world can help. Yes, white-centered institutions can help. Being part of an industry that is problematic as fuck helps me making work that I believe in, that’s the contradiction. For now, it’s about making it work for me, within boundaries that work for me. I spend too much time and energy being like, “I’m not making sense”… no I am making sense, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Claudia Rankine, said something I liked about institutional recognition, although I may not fully agree with her: “it’s also for me the culture saying: We have an investment in dismantling white dominance in our culture. If you’re trying to do that, we’re going to help you. And that, to me, is encouraging.”

SHINNERS: A lot of your work seems futuristic. Is imagining a future something you’re thinking about in your work?

REZAIRE: What makes you say my work is futuristic?

SHINNERS: That’s a good question. I guess I fall into my own trap of saying that.

REZAIRE: I guess you think of the use of the Internet, but it’s super contemporary, entrenched in our everyday lives. So it’s not futuristic.

I’m working in the present for the restoration of our past, which will guide our future. My work is not about the future, I don’t believe in this type of temporal linearity anyway. The past, present and future are arbitrary; they can be remodeled, repeated, discarded.  I’m however interested in the way our past has been constructed and the effects of this construction on our collective consciousness. Similarly, what effects can the rewriting of our past have on our present and futures? The now is fundamental yet irrelevant, it’s always a negotiation between what has/might have/could have been and what could/may/will be? The now is frightening. How do you exist in the world? How can we deal now? How can we love each other now? How can we love ourselves now?

I’m definitely working for a shift that is constantly (re)occurring over and over. I’m part of a wide community of seed planters, I might not see the fruits of my work but the seeds will sprout, maybe not in this lifetime but that’s ok. Planting seeds, that’s what I’m about.  

 

Unseen And Immaterial: An Interview Of Amanda Turner Pohan

text by Abbey Meaker

 

Science, alchemy, technology, and the process of distilling and translating bodily expressions – Amanda Turner Pohan’s art practice is rooted in processes that call into question the intimate relationship between bodies and the histories of embedded power structures. In one such work, Pohan has created a custom-formulated perfume using captured carbon dioxide exhaled during thirteen of her own orgasms. The milky concentrate of the artist's expressions of pleasure is contained within a glass jug, and its scent is emitted through a long plastic tube that meanders from the mouth of the jug to a dispenser across the room.   

As an organizer, Pohan fervently seeks opportunities for connectedness, community, and collaborative practice, striving to create space that promotes inclusion and blurs the boundary between art and life. I had the pleasure of speaking with Pohan on a cold winter Sunday about her interests in alchemy, temporal expressions of the body, sexuality, and blended practices as artist and organizer.

Abbey Meaker: Hello, hello! Are you in the city or the Catskills?

Amanda Turner Pohan: Catskills!

Meaker: So tell me about your place there- you're interested in starting an artist residency called Diamond Notch? It seems like a more holistic approach to supporting artists and creating a community.

Pohan:  I didn’t quite realize how much Temporary Agency and The Social Club really helped bolster this residency desire. I feel like the ideas we talk about up here mix the two, in addition to literally mixing the groups of people involved.

Meaker: I wondered how those two organizations came to be and if they played a role in your decision to take on this new endeavor. 

Pohan: Temporary Agency was built in the spirit of collective practice, and we wanted to facilitate an open engagement with the work that we showed by pairing it with public events, remaining mindful of responding to what was happening socially, culturally, and politically at that moment in time.

It’s necessary especially in this climate. In nine months we hosted something like two shows a month and an event for each show: Poetry readings, performative lectures, screenings, round table discussions, the gamut.

Meaker:  Did Social Club overlap?

Pohan: Yes! When I graduated, the first studio I got was at the Bakery Brooklyn, where I remain today and where the Social Club is held. But when we went nomadic with Temporary Agency back in 2015, our first event post Ridgewood gallery was at The Bakery. The studio and the Social Club have a similar sensibility to Temporary Agency. The Bakery was created in 2013 by Asa Pingree and Jason Kachadourian. It’s a wood shop that Jason and Asa share with studios built out in the back. Jason is a painter, furniture designer, and art events organizer. He's always worked in a collaborative vein and two years ago, around the time Temporary Agency formed, worked on creating a collective for artists and designers to think about showing work in way that isn’t "white cube." The collective concept ended up manifesting as the Social Club. Jason asked Asa and I to join him as the core group in organizing the monthly event in the gallery space built out from the wood shop, and the first one was in October 2015.

This year we are trying to introduce prompts that will influence peoples’ behavior within the space more pointedly. An idea that holds the Social Club together is giving participants agency over the vibe of their environment through collective actions and collaborative efforts, encouraging people to directly engage with the work. 

Meaker: Would you define a scenario as a kind of happening, whereby the public comes in and isn't quite sure what's planned, what's real, staged, what their role is in creating the work?


Pohan: Happening, yes. It has a Fluxus lineage for sure. I also would hold movement based meditation groups in grad school, and while it was planned, what came out of it was always unexpected.

Meaker: Why do you think this kind of work is particularly important now? Why the interest in moving exhibitions, performances, etc. outside of the gallery?

Pohan: The idea of inclusion, of in-between-spaces, of art/life as one expression resists individuation. And individuation is what perpetuates this current polarization that is happening politically. To divide and conquer is so dangerous, particularly now. I am, and the collectives I'm involved with, are interested in individual empowerment and collective action. Or collective actions amongst empowered individuals. This may be getting a bit heavy handed!

Meaker: Does your practice as an organizer/curator inform your art practice?

Pohan: Yes. A lot of my work is about intimacy. Working in collaboratives is an intimate, emotional, and challenging experience. It helps me become more and more aware of my relation to others. That is a fundamental aspect of my work. I make work by spending a lot of time outside of the studio gathering experiences and allowing for them to digest and settle into my system.

I spend my time in these various pursuits and then enter condensed periods of time reading and writing. Then, I make the work. I would neither be making the work that I make nor be involved collaboratively without all of these wonderful people. If there is a struggle to do it all, it serves as the fuel!

Meaker:  Do you consider all experiences as fodder?

Pohan: Yes. Fodder, I like that. Very apropos to where I am currently.

Meaker: I deeply admire that you've created a reality in which there is no distinction between life and work.  

Pohan: I’m really serious about it. I've been working with a meditation teacher for about seven years now, Dina Kushnir, from whom I really came to understand the depth of this. But putting it into action is what makes it embodied as knowledge and wisdom, otherwise it’s just words. As I said before, Temporary Agency and Social Club served as the groundwork for Diamond Notch [Diamond Notch is the place upstate, its namesake is the road it's on].

Meaker: What are your dreams for Diamond Notch?

Pohan: Jason Kachadourian is my partner, by the way, and is also partner on this project. Part of the dream is related to the art/life blend, but more than just art. I'm interested generally in the question of how to live together; it structures my thinking on this residency/school/program, whatever it ends up becoming and then becoming again. Jason and I are both interested in how living, making, and working collaboratively might look like. So for now it’s the Diamond Notch Hiking Club.



Meaker: The frontiers of your work are so rich and layered, often translating and recontexualizing ephemeral expressions of the body—breath, sweat, orgasms into various media: video, installation, sculpture. These are often bodily processes we aim to conceal—where does your desire to capture these temporal experiences come from? There's a lot to unpack there.

Pohan: It is a good one whose dense answer ties my art and my collective practices together. My mother's death. Her death is what initiated the desire or longing for this capturing, de-coding, translating, and re-presenting the body both materially and immaterially through smell, sound, light, color, text, video, sculpture, a total immersion. Her death is also what partially financed the acquisition of the land upstate. Her literal dematerialization materialized a house on a property to facilitate a community as well as most of my art work to date. I have always worked with the body as a material, but eight years ago upon her suicide, it really put it into a different framework, allowing me to question and unpack my own subjectivity.

The capturing of the ephemera of the body using electronic sensors and digital devices utilized in my art making process are methods of data collecting and disciplining bodies currently used by power structures both in the public and private spheres. So from a very personal experience is tied larger politics of the disciplined body, the marginalized body, the incarcerated body, the medicated body, the working body, the female body, etc. I suppose also on a basic level, even as a child, I have been deeply curious about the undercurrents that move our lives, desires, choices, that which is more refined and ethereal than is typically seen, and I long to dig into that undercurrent. The fruits of those moments result in my work. My commitment to a meditation practice and bodywork method of releasing trauma from the body also serves as doorways for seeing the unseen, immaterial.

Meaker: How would you say sexuality fits into this scheme?

Pohan: Well, I did make a piece that was titled Orgasmic Exhalations and was represented in various forms. In one aspect, the orgasmic is a just an expression, it could have been a meditative exhalation, for example. In the end it’s about perception. The female orgasm is a form of production and a form of labor that is commodified by the porn and pharmaceutical industries, or to which Paul B Preciado would call the pharmacopornographic. A mouthful of a word, no pun intended.

The private experience of the orgasm, mine in this case for making this piece, this intimate private experience and the je ne sais quoi-ness of it all is recorded in a way that then abstracts it into numbers using an electronic sensor to record the orgasm. How? It’s always a hurdle for me to explain! I hacked a telemarketers headset, and replaced the mic with CO2 sensor. The sensor was connected to a microcontroller, which was hooked up to a computer running a software program that recorded the fluctuating values of parts per million of CO2 emanating from my breath. I took the numeric recording and applied my own scientific method to it, as you said. I took the data and massaged it, as data-ists and statisticians say, which I find so comical, and I created an algorithm from it. I applied the algorithm to two different instruments for output to produce both a scent and a form. I applied the algorithm to a perfume formula to create the scent. I plotted the algorithm in 3D space on a CAD software program, which allowed me to have it 3 dimensionally cut by a CNC routing machine. This produced a sculpture.

There’s a Neils Bohr law about light. It goes, you can observe light as either a particle or a wave, depending on the instrument you use to observe it. You see what you want to see, in short.

In this work, Orgasmic Exhalations, I represented this orgasmic breath in a semi scientific and aesthetically clinical way, but what is most important about it all was that the same breath, the same exhalation data, was used to make both a scent and a form, depending on the instrument I used to observe it. This work is about the production of desire as its base material, the digital distribution of intimacy as its method of creation, and results in two forms that confront the viewer with various perceptual questions. (I hope!) Answers to which are unknown. I like watching the process of inquiry. There is also something gendered about this, the perfume as feminized and the machine sculpted form as masculinized, and the space of the installation is what I’m interested in as the space in between this binary, between the zeros and ones of production.

Meaker: Can you describe the scent of the perfume?

Pohan: It happens to smell a bit like turpentine, a bit earthy, but also slightly like burnt plastic. I chose two essences, rosemary and myrrh, and the combination of the two and the alcohol to carry it produced this smell.

Meaker: It's interesting, too, that the expression of a woman's orgasm could be perceived as masculinized. Makes these definitions of gender all the more arbitrary, however hammered in they may be.

Pohan: There is something problematic in the potential male gazey-ness of it. Well the hammering in is what causes a lot of pain and suffering. Its real in that sense, a concrete effect on the body these constructs that are habitually reperformed binarily.

Meaker: Which brings me to the question regarding Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto. In this essay she analyzes and rejects the boundaries that separate 'human' from' animal' and human from 'machine’ and calls for a need to move away from essentialism and toward the utopian dream of the hope for a monstrous world without gender. Are you interested in the subversion of concepts related to the body and gender in your work?

Pohan: I think I am more interested in what holds together the structures and constructs that govern and form our understanding and relation to gender than a direct subversion of gender. I want a viewer to be confronted with their own embodiment, their own structuring, I think it offers the possibility of opening up to a level of vulnerability that I find compelling. 

Meaker: Tell us what you've got going on now, outside of Diamond Notch. Where can we see your work? 

Pohan: I have the work we discussed earlier, Orgasmic Exhalation Form and Device for body Spray, in a group show up now at The Knockdown Center in Maspeth Queens, up until Feb 26. I also have work in a benefit auction for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, for which I received a nomination, on February 13 at Derek Eller Gallery. Opening March 19 will be The Whitney Houston Biennial where the perfume Linqox Criss will be on view with the work of many other female and female identified artists.

Spirit Of The Beehive: An Interview Of Artist Terence Koh

Over the last couple of years, the artist formerly known as 'asianpunkboy' has shed his downtown Manhattan image to become more in tune with the complicated mechanics of the natural world. Today, Terence Koh is not so much the Naomi Campbell of the the art world as he once referred to himself, he is more like the Krishnamurti of the art world. In the quiet bucolic climes of Sonoma California, Koh is busy tending to his bee chapel and learning about sustainability. Gone are the shaved eye brows, and gone are the sycophantic hipsters who saw him as disciple for a night at Le Bain or a good caboose during a dance train on the beach at Art Basel Miami. In the last week, Koh has come down the mountain, to completely transform Moran Bondaroff Gallery into a microcosm of the sustainable universe he believes we should all be living - an experiment for sustainability. Koh will be living at the gallery during the course of the show. He has cut a hole in the roof where there was once none, planted a garden, and erected his chapel full of buzzing honey bees where guests are invited to meditate. There is also a bath and lots of vegetables growing. As we climbed the stairs, Koh was washing dishes while a fresh bee sting pulsated on his upper earlobe. During the course of the exhibition, Koh won't be using modern amenities, like a shower or even toilet. When we came to interview, Koh had to duck into the corner of the garden to pee - we opted for the gallery bathroom. The gallery has also been equipped with solar panels, but aside from the offices, the gallery is lit solely by candles. During the course of our conversation, it was nearly pitch black - his cat, Skeleton, was there too. In the back of the gallery, where there once was a storage room, is now a kitchen and cafe. A basket of donated food, and even a hallucinogenic cactus is waiting to be consumed. In the following interview, Koh - who is not reading the news - ruminates on the present predicaments of the world filtered through friends and visitors to the gallery, and chats about our own personal responsibilities to stand up for a planet constantly in flux and constantly in danger of losing its fragile balance. 

AUTRE: So you haven’t seen much of LA since you’ve been here because you’ve been mainly in the gallery. Have you been able to enjoy the community?

TERENCE KOH: I’m trying to think if I’ve been to other parts of LA this trip. No, not really. I’ve pretty much just been here.

AUTRE: For a show like this, what is the preparation like? Besides the materials, what’s the process of mentally preparing for a show like this?

KOH: There’s not much. I’ve done performances before, so it’s actually -- ever since I did the nothingtoodoo show and I was going around the salt. I would go like eight hours a day for seven days. Everything is relative. That was one probably the most painful, mentally and physically thing I’ve ever done. In the gallery now, the fact that I can move around and talk to people. I didn’t feel that I needed to mentally prepare in that way. It’s a lot more peaceful. I’ve created a setting - my cat's here, the piano - and everything just takes place organically and naturally. Like Alan Watts’ philosophy, you just muddle through it. Just as it goes.

AUTRE: He had that philosophy that if you’re truly present, when you wash the dishes, you’re only washing one dish.

KOH: Exactly. You just be present in the moment. It’s something I’ve just learned recently.

AUTRE: How did the opening go? Did you feel like it went well?

KOH: I think so. I was overwhelmed and someone gave me an edible to calm me down. When I’m in Sonoma, it’s very remote in the grapevines and when I was in the Catskills I was on a mountain top by myself. So I've actually purposefully avoided openings and all these things. I didn’t prepare mentally for all these people. Usually when I have openings, there’s an office or something I can escape to and just walk away for a moment, but I had nowhere to go. And then the edible kicked in [laughter]. It was interesting.

AUTRE: I saw an Instagram picture of you in the boat. Was that when you hid in the boat?

KOH: I haven’t even seen it. I haven’t seen anything in days, which is great actually. It was really nice to all these people getting together and enjoying the bee chapel and sitting around here and playing the piano. All of these impromptu. Having conversations which was the whole point of the show. Making a setting where people feel comfortable together as a community in the times that we live in as well. Like a beehive with good intentions.

AUTRE: I want to talk about Joseph Beuys who had that famous performance where he was sort of whisked into the gallery. I like America and America likes me. Do you think taking these extreme lengths is important to make political or spiritual statements?

KOH: Yes I do. I think it’s through many ways. Through gentle ways. Because of what the current government is trying to do, trying to destroy the environment. I’ve been reading about environmental activism and the author, Derrick Jensen, who lives in Northern California. He’s advocating blowing up dams, not that he does it himself, but that the other side is so focused and vicious and powerful. As we’re sitting here, they’re thinking about the Keystone Pipeline. His big question is, are we even interested in winning this? Because it is a war. He’s advocating for extreme action. He talks about protests and how we all come together and it’s nice and after we feel good, we cook a dinner. But what have we actually achieved? We made ourselves feel good, but what have we done to fight the forces?

AUTRE: When did you first start to discover and learn about bees and beehives and taking care of them?

KOH: I think probably moving to the Catskills. Again in New York City, there are bees too, but when we live on a remote mountain top, you realize there are honey bees flying everywhere. I was coming from New York City, I didn’t think about these things. Only from living in nature do you open your awareness that it’s all really there. You read about honeybees in the news, because of all the things that we’re doing and it’s really a lot of things that we do like chemicals in farming. There was this voice that came up. “Build a bee chapel” and I didn’t know what a bee chapel was. It took actually a whole year to figure out. I thought I was going to build a pyramid and cover it in honey. I was talking to different people. There had to be more structure to it. Over time, it just organically happened. Talking to beekeepers.

AUTRE: I read or heard from someone that you built the chapel partly to protect them from bears, was it?

KOH: We built the first chapel in the Catskills twelve feet up in the air, because there are all these bears. Otherwise, they’d smell the honey. We built a catapult system.

AUTRE: That’s wild.

KOH: It wasn’t just my idea. There were so many people that made this show happen. The carpenters, the beekeeper, the gardeners, and the whole gallery helping out. Just all these different people and things coming together.



AUTRE: Have you seen the movie, “The Spirit of the Beehive?" It’s a Spanish film.

KOH: Oh yes, part of it. I don’t remember much, but I remember it’s very dark.

AUTRE: It’s dark. The director uses bees as symbolism to talk about people and control. You seem to have attributed more positive symbolism to bees.

KOH: The Spirit of the Beehive moves into like Shamanistic territory and I’m studying Zen Buddhism right now, which is like things that are directly as they are. There is no mysticism to it. I feel like I’m always between Mysticism and Zen Buddhism. Both forces that are completely opposite and I don’t know what side it is, because I do believe there is magic, somehow. When candles burn and there are ashes. There’s a mystery that is magic. But in Buddhism, it is what it is. There is no more to a candle than a candle. In the bee chapel, it’s nature and it just happens, but also why do the bees do what they do? How do they swarm. There are so many mysteries to bees.

AUTRE: Interesting. When you first started making work, especially in New York City, there was a big difference in the work you were making as compared to the work you’re making now. What do you think it was about nature that inspired you to try something new?

KOH: Maybe it was learning to accept nature. When you live in it and you learn to be a part of it. If you don’t get yourself firewood and you live in the Catskills, you’re going to freeze.

AUTRE: I want to talk a little bit about the writing that you did for this show. It’s really beautiful. Where does the language and poetry fit into your artistic practice? Because you use very unique language to describe your practice. Have you always used that language to describe each of your shows?

KOH: No. I think everyone is sort of born with their own language, I believe. Because you go to school and grade school, they switch you into being part of society. Without school, I wonder what type of grammar and syntax we would use. It could be very interesting. Maybe we would all speak in poetry or like the bees, we wouldn’t need to talk. The beekeeper was talking to me about language like how do they know their distance from the beehive? They all cling together. That’s a different system of thinking. We could have developed different natures that aren’t language based.

AUTRE: There’s a lot of unconscious communication that we do. A lot of people speak without saying anything, even if they don’t realize it.

KOH: We’re gonna discover just like radio waves that maybe we’re telepathic. It’s all within ourselves. I think it’s because from what I read, we move too quickly as a civilization. The spiritual has moved faster than the physical. If we moved in tandem, that’s when maybe things would get interesting.

AUTRE: Last summer, you were at Andrew Edlin Gallery. You did that show and it was just the Beehive, right?

KOH: There were a few different things.

AUTRE: You cited the names of the Orlando victims, which is really interesting and you said you wanted to sort of let the bees hear those names. Can you talk a little bit about that?

KOH: Most beekeepers talk to the bees. You tell them the news of things that are happening around the world so that you treat them with respect. The idea is that I think the bees do listen and hear. The idea was that in that show, there were microphones connected back into satellites, into outer space so I thought if I channeled it and talked to the bees about things that were happening, they would again channel it. The whole system would all be channeled into outer space. Me, the bees, everything. It’s one way to keep them alive as well. It affected me, being gay as well, to see that happen at a gay nightclub. You feel empathy because you feel it’s closer to you. I’ve been to spaces like that. It’s all about perspective. I want to be connected, but also disconnected. Maybe by disconnecting, I can focus my energy. There’s so much going on, it’s like what can I do? But with this show, we can be connected and responsible.

AUTRE: You should get everyone to chow down on that cactus.

KOH: Right? Exactly. Like a little bit each and we can find different ways to do things. Sitting here disconnected from the world, is it doing any good? For myself, maybe, but I don’t know.

AUTRE: It seems like an important gesture. A really important gesture and maybe a lesson for people to sort of take a step back and disconnect a little bit.

KOH: Just living and being, maybe that’s one way. They can take away clean water, they can’t take away spirit itself. We have our spirit. They cannot take it away. When Krishnamurti wrote the greatest art is the art of living, he wrote it in one of his books and even greater than the greatest works of paintings or poetry or architecture is the art of living itself. It took me awhile to understand. It’s almost like from touching the cat, to talking to you, to cooking food. This is how we do it in our way.

AUTRE: Nurture our intellect.

KOH: Yeah.

AUTRE: When you imagine the future, which emotion do you feel most dominantly?

KOH: [pause] The future is now.

AUTRE: The future feels present.

KOH: The future is the present. It’s unexplainable. There’s nothing you can do about the future or the past. But to feel the future is not possible. The only thing we have is the now. 


Terence Koh "Sleeping In A Beam of Sunlight" will be on view until March 11, 2017 at Moran Bondaroff gallery in Los Angeles. text, interview and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Brothers Grim: An Interview Of Dinos Chapman On The Power Of Humor And Violence

 

text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

 

There couldn’t be a better time for Jake and Dinos Chapman’s new exhibition, To Live And Think Like Pigs, on view now at the UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles. That it opened on the same day as Donald Trump’s wildly xenophobic and damaging executive order banning Muslims from “terror prone” countries is compelling, but perhaps not coincidental. When the wickedness of the world reveals its evident truths, Jake and Dinos remind us that the horror, panic and depravity isn’t just a brand of reality they have invented to shock us – it is actually reality. We are eating in it, fucking in it and living in it.  Swastikas, Ku Klux Klan iconography, rainbows, happy faces and the golden arches of the McDonald’s logo all exist on the same killing field. If their work appears apocalyptic, it is because the end seems so close that you can feel the tingling warmth of the glowing, earthly sun of nuclear annihilation. With the undeniable surge of violence and anxiety, the seething distrust of “the other” – the Chapman brothers create works that are artifacts of this existential catastrophe of our own making. But what people most misunderstand about the Chapman brothers is that their work is hilarious – a laugh riot, an obscene and brilliant joke. If you don’t laugh, you are missing the point all together. What's funnier than a couple of realistic surprised looking mannequins wearing full KKK garb, rainbow socks and Birkenstocks?  We got a chance to sit down with one half of the Chapman brothers – Dinos Chapman – to discuss everything from the failure of the human species to their time working as assistants for fellow controversial British artists Gilbert And George.  

AUTRE: So the title of the show is borrowed from the book, To Live And Think Like Pigs [by French philosopher Gilles Châtelet], which really predicted our current political and sociological turmoil. The show carries the same themes, right?

DINO CHAPMAN: Ish. I think the major theme of the show is failure.

AUTRE: Political? Spiritual?

CHAPMAN: Every aspect of failure, grand gestural failure.

AUTRE: Do you think we’re failing as a species?

CHAPMAN: Oh, we failed. Long time ago. I think we’re just in the death throes of failure

AUTRE: So what’s left after that?

CHAPMAN: Uhh we all die and we kill everything on the planet and it just continues to spin round and round and round the sun until it burns out.

AUTRE: Today, especially now it seems like a really apt time for the show and the political climate in the UK. Is this affecting your work in bigger ways than it has in the past?

CHAPMAN: No, no. I think we’ve always been intentionally pessimistic about humanity, culture. Yeah. It’s a failed project.

AUTRE: Do you think that when people are too positive it puts us in a space of false paradise?

CHAPMAN: Yeah, I mean I think you have to be incredibly short-sighted or an idiot to be positive. Certainly in today’s climate. Every single second, things get slightly worse because of other people’s positivist views. They think they’re doing good.

AUTRE: And complacent.

CHAPMAN: And complacent.

AUTRE: So going back to some of the work that you’ve done with Hitler’s paintings and some of the iconography you work with –  it seems sort of like the idea of people wanting to go back in time to kill Hitler and other dictators to change the course of history. Do you feel like you’re doing that using the present, instead of actually going back in time?

CHAPMAN: Short of inventing a time machine and going back and actually doing something, I think we kind of did [change the course of history] when we bought the Hitler drawings and paintings and defaced them and turned them into hippie nonsense, it was kind of an attempt to give him a --- because those works are often considered evidence of when he was still sort of a human being. As though he would have been redeemable if he went to art school and everything would have been fine. He would have been another artist, but he didn’t get into art school so he decided to go out and kill as many Jews as he possibly could. And you know, the sort of popular idea is that if he was allowed to be an artist, he would not have done that. So we kind of got in there before he became a genocider and kind of fucked it up. Just to remove that bit of humanity from him.

AUTRE: Instead of KKK insignia and swastikas, you use smiley faces as part of that dialogue.

CHAPMAN: Happy faces and KKK insignia and rainbows and swastikas are all the same scale.

AUTRE: Exiting politics for a second, I want to talk about your process: where your studio is, what your typical process is, what a day is like

CHAPMAN: I’ve been in LA for three years actually doing fuck all. No, I’ve been at home working.

AUTRE: Do you work separately from your brother now?

CHAPMAN: No no no, we work together. We’re stretching the umbilical cord to a sort of monofilament at the moment. We’ve always tested the parameters of what it means to be working. It’s preferable to work on your own, because two people implies legion. Multi personalities, so yeah. I kind of moved out here for the weather and the politics.

AUTRE: What about the politics?

CHAPMAN: What about the politics, psshh. I don’t know. I mean I can’t complain, we have BREXIT in England. Europe is about to fall to bits. It’s a great big shit show.

AUTRE: How do you feel about CALEXIT? 

CHAPMAN: I think it should divert a fence around California and keep everyone else out. It seems...why not? I’m quite pleased that California is rebellious and not seemingly republican. I’ve only just learned the difference between democrats and republicans. The only reason I know republicans are bad is because of France. I hate France. [laughter]



AUTRE: Oftentimes, there's not much of a difference between the two.

CHAPMAN: One of the nice things about being in a foreign country, although it’s not really strictly defensible, is that you don’t feel responsible for anything. I know that’s burying your head in the sand, but for me it seems preferable to being in Britain and sort of railing against something I may have been able to do something about.

AUTRE: Do you feel like the critics are harsher at home?

CHAPMAN: I just think I can look at Trump and not laugh, but not feel related to him in any way.

AUTRE: As brothers and collaborators have you always wanted to make work together?

CHAPMAN: There’s a five year difference between us. Five years is kind of the absolute point at which you’re at different schools at different times so in England I would have been leaving school as Jake would be joining us. We never really spent much time together apart from the evenings and then we finally kind of caught up with each other in college and did a lot of talking and then decided after we left college that we should work together. I mean, we tried to work on our own for a bit but it just seemed kind of pointless when the conversations we had were much more fruitful and much more interesting than the conversations we were having in our own heads which are invariably kind of solipsistic. You can’t argue yourself out of a color.

AUTRE: What is your typical response to people's misunderstanding your work? I mean, is there a typical response?

CHAPMAN: We don’t feel any responsibility for what people think of the art. If you make a child mannequin with a penis on its nose you have to invite a plethora of readings of that. There is no correct reading because once the work is finished and it’s in a gallery environment, it’s done. We’re no longer in control of what it means because every single work is entirely subjective.

AUTRE: Yup, it’s in the hands of the viewer.

CHAPMAN: Yeah. It’s not but that’s where it starts to do its biggest journey.

AUTRE: That’s where the job begins, the intellectual job. And you’re not just making depraved work to make depraved work. Reality is actually depraved.

CHAPMAN: We’re making stuff that hopefully clarifies or makes the fault lines in western culture's moralistic thinking apparent. Again, you put a mannequin with a penis on its face in a gallery and it trips people up, it makes people think lots of different things. I’m not that interested in answers. I’m more interested in questions.

AUTRE: In the beginning, you were both assistants to Gilbert and George, right?

CHAPMAN: I was an assistant for a long time. Jake joined up and got us both sacked.

AUTRE: How’d that happen? Is it a long story?

CHAPMAN: [laughs] No, it’s a really short story actually. I think we were bigger and more unrelenting than them. The two of us together was a bit too much.

AUTRE: A bit too much for them. I mean, they’re pretty politically charged but it seems like you want to take things in a new direction.

CHAPMAN: I just think they decided it was unfair.

[laughs]

AUTRE: Jake made a comment recently about the Ai Weiwei photograph of the drowned refugee boy. That it sort of aestheticized other people’s misery. Can you talk a little bit about that?

CHAPMAN: It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible thing that artists think that painting other people’s poverty or hardship helps. It doesn’t help their hardship or poverty it just—

AUTRE: Glorifies it.

CHAPMAN: It does that and it also doesn’t do anything apart from make the artist feel like they’ve done something, which is a terrible thing.

AUTRE: It’s selfish.

CHAPMAN: Yeah.

AUTRE: Everybody congratulates themselves for feeling sympathy.

CHAPMAN: Absolutely. I was watching Louis C.K. the other night and he said that, on airplanes, he always feels like he should give his first class seat to service men because they always sit in coach. He never does but he feels really good about thinking that he should do it. That’s an artist's’ mentality.

AUTRE: It’s the thought that counts mentality.

CHAPMAN: He didn’t actually do anything about it.

AUTRE: Yeah, so you think people should actually do something about it?

CHAPMAN: It would help [laughs].

AUTRE: So for this particular show, is there something you would want people to know that they might not see?

CHAPMAN: It’s all for sale [laughs]. At drastically reduced prices.

AUTRE: And my last question, because I know you probably want to get back inside for the opening.

CHAPMAN: Ah yes, being uncomfortable walking around my own work.

AUTRE: Is it uncomfortable being around your own work in that kind of setting?

CHAPMAN: It’s a very strange thing to do. It’s a bit like being a child.

AUTRE: When your mom puts it on the refrigerator?

CHAPMAN: Yeah. You want people to come up and pat you on the back for doing well, but you don’t. Still, that’s sometimes what it feels like.

AUTRE: Is art the most powerful medium for subversion? Especially now.

CHAPMAN: No, guns and hand grenades are. They’re powerful. And humor. Humor allied with guns and hand grenades.

AUTRE: Which one first though?

CHAPMAN: Guns.


Jake And Dinos Chapman "To Live And Think Like Pigs" will be on view at UTA Artist Space until March 11, 2017. text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


A Welcome Act Of Rebellion: An Interview Of Zach Fernandez, The Artist Behind Hollyweed

If you woke up in Los Angeles, or anywhere else in the world, on New Year’s Day this year, you may have noticed a curious sight: the iconic Hollywood sign transformed into “Hollyweed.” It was a welcome act of rebellion after one of the most fucked up years in history. From some social media posts, it looked like a Photoshop job – a meme to celebrate the new California law legalizing the recreational consumption of marijuana. As news of the stunt spread, it was obvious that someone had actually altered the Hollywood sign. How it was altered, and the extent of the damage, wasn’t apparent upon first examination, but as the helicopters buzzing overhead started zooming in, it was clear that there was no damage at all – just white and black sheets to change the double O’s into double E’s. It was brilliant. But it wasn’t the first time someone had pulled the same stunt. In 1976, Daniel Finegood, an art student at Cal State Northridge changed the Hollywood sign to read the same thing on the same day that possession of an ounce of weed was downgraded to a misdemeanor, and then again during the Persian Gulf War to read 'Oil War.' This time around, the prankster turned out to be Los Angeles based artist Zach Fernandez, otherwise known as Jesus Hands. After the stunt, he skipped town, but after the LAPD turned up the heat, he surrendered. We got a chance to catch up with Fernandez at his Downtown studio to smoke a joint and discuss his intentions behind peacefully altering one of the most iconic city landmarks.   

AUTRE: Are you from Los Angeles?

ZACH FERNANDEZ: Not from Los Angeles per se. I grew up in Southern California. I lived in the Inland Empire till I was eight or nine and then I lived by the beach, Pismo Beach for the remainder. I went back and forth between here and SoCal and then I’ve lived in Pomona most recently. I’ve kind of just been all over, a bit nomadic I guess.

AUTRE: So, a lot of people are probably trying to talk to you about this project right now.

FERNANDEZ: Yeah, these last two weeks. The first week was the equivalent of a year or two’s life span. I had no idea what the deal was, it was so crazy.

AUTRE: People didn’t know it was you until…?

FERNANDEZ: Until a couple days later. And even still people are coming up like “that was you?” and I’m like “yeah, were you living under a rock?”

AUTRE: I read something about Tommy Chong calling you about it.

FERNANDEZ: Yeah it was really special. We had a good moment and he gave some solid advice. I didn’t know what to expect, you know, it’s Tommy Chong. You can expect a million different things and be way off. I was on the train, just trying to get out of town, and he direct messaged me on Instagram and said “let’s talk.” It wasn’t his PR guy or something, it was him. I was just like, “holy crap what is happening.”

AUTRE: So what did he want to talk to you about?

FERNANDEZ: Honestly, it was very simple, it was just “hey that put a huge smile on my face, thank you for that.” And then I asked for some advice. He said, “look, you chose to become famous and now there’s no going back. Really think about that.”

AUTRE: So he knew that after this project, that was it.

FERNANDEZ: He knew. The synchronicity that I live by, it’s my motto.

AUTRE: Is all the attention you’re getting intimidating or is it slightly exciting?

FERNANDEZ: It’s both, it’s definitely both. It’s just figuring out what to do from here. This is just the beginning, for the world, working out this type of stuff.

AUTRE: Have you done anything on this scale?

FERNANDEZ: Not this scale. But there’s something bigger to come. Art for me is almost an adrenaline rush, it’s the weirdest thing. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at it like that but I find that it makes me so excited, that I obsess over it, and lose sleep over it—there’s this burning and driving. Every artist knows that feeling, everyone can relate. And then there’s the times when it’s gone and that’s the scary part. It’s like, fuck what is this? But then it comes back. It’s the flow. Once you realize there’s this ebb and flow to life, things come and go, everything else works out.

AUTRE: When did you put the plan into motion?

FERNANDEZ: It originally was just a seed. I’ve kind of regurgitated this a little bit in the media but I basically just put out this shout out on Facebook: “hey I’m looking to do an art install in the LA area everybody should message me.” I got like three messages. It was funny to see. I was like, “this is my idea, I’m committed.” I had some people who were like “Oh yeah” and then would disappear and I didn’t want to go out and track them down.

AUTRE: Did they know initially? Or did you tell them as things unfolded?

FERNANDEZ: Some people knew and then other people had to say yes and then I would tell them about the plan.

AUTRE: The materials you used were tarp, right?

FERNANDEZ: People say tarps but they were actually sheets. It was a very resourceful project considering our circumstances. We did it for like $35 in total: limited paint from Home Depot was like seven bucks.

AUTRE: Wait so the blacked out part was paint?

FERNANDEZ: A black sheet.

AUTRE: What did you use the paint for?

FERNANDEZ: I painted on the sheet, on the black part. It was hard to see. It flipped one way and kind of hung around the side. It was very hard to make out so I hesitated to do it but decided even if people couldn’t see it I was going to do it anyways. It’s a tribute. My buddy posted a photo of the original “Hollyweed” and I was like, “what, somebody has done this before?”



AUTRE: So you had the idea and then you saw that somebody had done the same thing?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah. I was like “whoa, okay hold on a minute let’s see what this guy did.” So I figured out some of the details and his background and played on that. I didn’t just want to be this person regurgitating ideas but sometimes history has to repeat itself to learn something new. That’s what life's all about. We learn, we fail, we learn, we fail. And the climate was perfect. So I was like, this guy is channeling his energy through me; I didn’t even know he’d died of cancer. I saw an interview of his wife about my project being like “oh, my heart.”

AUTRE: Oh amazing, did she reach out to you directly?

FERNANDEZ: Her family has and said some really deep stuff and I’m like “holy crap, this is so sacred to me.” I haven’t been able to meet them physically.

AUTRE: That’s heavy. Funny, you did it for thirty-five bucks? I think he did it for fifty. Accounting for inflation you still dropped the price…

FERNANDEZ: I know, I guess it costs more in the risk is what it came down to. But I had no fear about the whole project. I mean I had doubts, but zero fear. I had my intentions. I said that’s gonna be done and I’m gonna walk away.

AUTRE: And it really didn’t seem to be about vandalism. People immediately thought that maybe you vandalized the sign or you knocked out part of the white or something like that.

FERNANDEZ: Totally. They thought I messed up the letters.

AUTRE: Immediately upon looking at it, they were like “Oh, shit! Someone fucked up the Hollywood sign” which would have been a massive act of vandalism, but looking at it closer, you realize it’s not that. Your work is not about desecration at all.

FERNANDEZ: No, it’s all about finding a way to, I don’t want to say manipulate the system, but a way to peacefully, respectfully maybe not work against, but work with the system. You get your messages out without this unnecessary punishment.

AUTRE: There’s nothing hostile about it.

FERNANDEZ: Exactly.

AUTRE: So you knew that maybe you would get in trouble for it, because of the trespassing?

FERNANDEZ: I did the research on the trespassing and the vandalism. Looked at the law for what vandalism really is.

AUTRE: They couldn’t get you on vandalism, but they’re trying to get you for the trespassing. So the day afterwards, you head out of town and when did you decide to turn yourself in?

FERNANDEZ: I got out of town, talked to my attorneys, came back down here and then I started feeling a little bit paranoid. Because the detectives started laying on the heat a little bit. A lotta bit. It’s a long story. I’m not at will to say right now, but after all this blows over, let me tell you how the LAPD works. It’s very, very scary.

AUTRE: They got tough?

FERNANDEZ: Very tough. Real fast. And it’s fine. Like I said, I had good intentions all the way. I had no idea about how the world would respond to this. I had no fucking clue. So I got done and I just stood there calmly for like two minutes and took it in and was just like, “Whoa. I did it.”

AUTRE: I mean from far away, you could really see it. It looked seamless. Completely seamless.

FERNANDEZ: We studied it and honestly there were no schematics except for the height. We got the height and then I looked at a ladder on the side. The ladder rungs have like a foot space in between each one and then I just got the letter and measured it off of that picture. I was able to get it pretty precise.

AUTRE: You had helicopters up there. You had people from all over the place. You know you’ve done something big when someone’s up there with a helicopter.

[laughs]

FERNANDEZ: I saw that the next morning. You know Sarah woke me up and she was like, “It’s everywhere.” And I was like “What? I don’t even understand what you’re talking about.  Last night’s a dream to me. I have no idea what just happened.” Her eyes got so big.

AUTRE: And now it’s a meme.

[laughs]

FERNANDEZ: It is a meme. People were like saying they lived so close to the Hollywood sign and they were like, “Ugh I was in Vegas. I could have gotten my drone up there.” It’s so good. The letters do look like they went all the way around. It’s weird.

AUTRE: You can barely tell. The only time people can tell that it was a sheet is when they really zoomed in with those creepy paparazzi zooms.

FERNANDEZ: The best part was seeing the little firemen after. Seeing how little they were compared to the letters. It took them like thirteen hours to get it all down. It took me three hours to get it up but like ten guys to get it down. I don’t understand.

AUTRE: It seemed like there were not a lot of people around. You were able to pretty much do whatever you wanted.

FERNANDEZ: The day I went and hiked up there it was like two weeks prior just to survey it and see how it was. I got up there around 7:30 in the morning and there was a guy putting an American flag on top of the hill and zip tying it to the post. It’s still fucking there. So I saw it, took a picture. I leave. I saw that there was trash everywhere. If anybody gave a shit about this sign, there wouldn’t be trash everywhere. So that was my ticket and I was just like okay go: do it. Anyway, long story short, that guy ended up direct messaging me with a picture at the fucking sign like, “I’ve been down there, too!” I mean there have probably been hundreds of people who have jumped that gate, taken pictures at the sign, and that’s it.

AUTRE: That original artist, he actually did a few things with the Hollywood sign. I think he did Ollywood during the Oliver North hearings and then he did something during the Gulf War

FERNANDEZ: Exactly, yep. He did “Oil War” and it ended up getting taken down so fast.

AUTRE: So, you don’t have plans to do more with the Hollywood sign? You’re done?

FERNANDEZ: With the Hollywood sign, I’m done. But, definitely worldly. I’ve got some huge things coming up. So I’m super excited. I’m not sure how soon, but soon.

Astral America: An Interview Of FUCT Founder and Artist Erik Brunetti On His New Book Astral America

Looking like a cross between a rogue border patrol agent and a cowboy dandy, Erik Brunetti is the founder and fearless leader of one of the most iconic American street wear brands. The brand’s name alone, FUCT, harkens a kind of dissidence and lassitude belonging to that doomed generation that came before the digital dark ages and the millennials struggling to survive in its cold pixelated miasma. While street wear brands like and Supreme and Stussy opted for safety in numbers, the FUCT brand, which was conceived in Brunetti's Venice Beach bedroom in 1991, remains uniquely intact and connected to its DIY roots. Starting off as a graffiti artist in New York City, FUCT became a kind of extension of Brunetti’s seditious ideals. Just recently, Brunetti teamed up with Paperwork NYC to publish a book of new drawings. Entitled Astral America, the book is an ode to post truth with a smattering of India ink renderings of drones, US military propaganda, pop iconography and psychologically damning, accusatory, and anti-consumerist slogans aimed squarely at the gluttony of American culture. We got a chance chat with Brunetti about the book, the current state of FUCT and why it’s not cool to justify war with hashtags. 

AUTRE: Okay, lets start off with your upbringing in Jersey, which is close to New York, but seemingly a world away, what was your first introduction to culture and did you get a chance to escape to the city?

ERIK BRUNETTI: I was born in New Jersey, I grew up in Pennsylvania and Virginia. I only started visiting NYC in the late 70's early 80's with my mother, going to punk boutiques, CBGB, etcetera. I eventually moved to New York on my own and became a bike messenger when I was 18.

AUTRE: You were in New York during the halcyon days of graffiti writers – what was it about this world that was so romantic to you?

BRUNETTI: I discovered graff through a friend of mine named Darnell. We went to school together, and I noticed all the tags on his school books, same style of graff that I would to see when I went into the city, so naturally I inquired about it. He then took me to the yards and opened up an entire world to me. I then started writing for many years since throughout the tri-state area.

AUTRE: When did the idea to start the FUCT brand come to you – was it something that you decided to start right away or did you mull it over?

BRUNETTI: It was an accident that I had to cultivate. There was no blue print or business plan, there still isn't one to this day.

AUTRE: Did you have any idea that it would become this multiple decade brand experiment?

BRUNETTI: I knew it was different, I never think too much about it's future. 
 



AUTRE: Do you feel like it would be hard to start a brand like FUCT in this day and age?

BRUNETTI: The opposite. It was hard to start a brand FUCT in 1990 due to the fact that nothing like it existed. It would be much easier to start today. The groundwork has been carved out and people are more indoctrinated and accepting of subversive ideals because due to the internet.

AUTRE: It seems like the message that you are trying to get across with FUCT is more important than ever – it seems like subversion is crucial, especially in our current political climate?

BRUNETTI: It depends how it is presented I suppose. It could swing either way.

AUTRE: Let’s talk about Astral America – can you talk about the central focus of the book?

BRUNETTI : The books title comes from a chapter in Jean Baudrillard's book, "America." In that book he writes about the grotesque aspect of our country that American's seem to celebrate. My drawings in Astral America are observations and critiques of today's wasteful country. Unnecessary oversized parking lots, shopping mals, fast food feeding overweight people, televison and movie stars becoming activist to save the day. The USA starting as many wars as we possibly can in the Middle East and then justifying them with hashtags and social media slogans.

AUTRE: How did the book come about – was it a collection of work that you’ve been meaning to put out for a while?

BRUNETTI: I had began working with India ink as a medium again last year, just drawing much more and compiling a body of work that was based on the above mentioned theme and ideals, with no intention of showing them. Fast forward, Mike, from Paper Work NYC contacted me earlier in the year and came to my loft to visit and saw them and thought they would be great in a limited edition publication. So, we laid it out and it was done. It happened very naturally. I work with people much easier when meeting in person rather then via email or social media. If we
hadn't met, it wouldn't have happened. I like to see people, develop a working relationship and become friends, it shows in the quality of work that is then put out.

AUTRE: Where do you see FUCT in the next 20 years?


BRUNETTI: Done, hopefully.

AUTRE: What’s next for you as a fine artist – any exhibitions in the works?
 

BRUNETTI: I'm in the studio working everyday, I don't really make plans, if someone approaches me I'm into it. The art world in general is in a weird place right now. I'm also terrible at networking and putting myself out there. Art in the states is boring and contrived right now. I might move to Spain.


You can purchase Astral America on the Paperwork NYC website. photographs by Mike Krim. Interview and text by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Brutal Beauty: An Interview of Artist and Muse Michele Lamy On Organizing Rick Owens' First Furniture Exhibition

On a cold, rainy night, the day before the private opening, we huddled in the cab of a moving truck to chat about furniture, music and fashion. It may have been a symbolic coincidence that Michele Lamy was in the driver's seat, clutching on to the huge steering wheel, but maybe it wasn't. It's true – although the furniture line is a true collaboration, Lamy does most of the general contracting and she is organizing the exhibition all on her own. But it’s obvious that she is used to it and loves the process, and Rick is happy to take a back seat. 

Despite her diminutive frame, Lamy’s primal and mystical energy seems enough to muster ample kinetic energy to move hundreds of tons of concrete, alabaster and marble. The way she talks (with a thick, rough French accent), gesticulates, moves her eyes - the way her jewelry and stacked rings move with an orchestral clattering - is hypnotic. It is no wonder that the creative class has flocked to her – like an oasis in an indefinable desert of sameness – for the last couple of decades. It's no wonder why she and Rick have become a centrifugal force in the world of fashion and art.

Lamy is anything but ordinary. In some circles, you may know Lamy because of her relationship to fashion and furniture designer Rick Owens. Indeed, there are many clichés to describe her relationship to her partner: muse, alter ego, better half, right hand woman and so on. But more than anything, Lamy is a vital counterpart - a long lost spiritual and creative twin. That Owens and Lamy found each other in this modern artistic wilderness is kismet in the form of nuclear fusion, but it is not terribly surprising. Before the two were globally recognized, Michele owned a famous restaurant in Los Angeles called Les Deux Café and Owens was honing his craft in a studio across the street. While both Michele and Owens are mercilessly creative - Lamy really took the reigns with the furniture side of their output. Lamy almost exclusively heads all production, which takes her on material buying trips around the world looking for rare skins and fur, wood, bone and marble.

Open now at MOCA's Pacific Design Center outpost, you can experience an immersive exhibition of new furniture pieces designed by Owens, but spearheaded and organized by Lamy. A large alabaster wall, marble benches, camel skin ottomans and an ox bone settee - you can move your fingers across and through all the pieces. The furniture is a perfect, brutalist, and antiestablishment vision for a bombed out future where we must carve out our palaces from the ruins of factories and government headquarters. Complimenting the furniture are works by the late sculptural painter Steven Parrino, whose works capture the same anarchy and vision as the furniture. 

In the following interview, we chat with Michele Lamy about the exhibition, her past as the iconic ringleader at Les Deux Café and what she misses most about the Los Angeles she left behind before leaving for Paris with Rick Owens.

BJ PANDA BEAR: How have you been? I’ve been seeing you pop around and I know you’re working on this upcoming exhibition. How is everything coming along with it?

MICHELE LAMY: So, we are almost done. Just finishing up. I like the process so there is a thing that we’ve built and it’s just outside of Paris. We have this big atelier and then we did a warehouse in Los Angeles. For example, we do a lot of pieces in concrete, which is difficult to move, paying for the weight of the concrete for sending on a plane because we are always late. And then we found this great warehouse that’s on Highland and Romaine. Now we move in to MOCA and there is a little bit of adjustment because it’s still an institution, but it’s cool. We can break stuff, we can repair stuff up there, but for example you cannot drink a cup of tea. I don’t know why - it’s just the rules. When you’ve finished building something, you cannot have tea. I’m sure you can come in with a gun, but you cannot have tea.

BJ PANDA BEAR: That's insane! Where did the origin of the furniture come from? 

LAMY: When we move somewhere, we always do the furniture. We moved so many times. A gallery said it looked like a collection so I took it from there to produce it. It turned into two collections. It turned into gallery showings, we have dealers. We just keep doing it.

BJ PANDA BEAR: You’re always so hands on when we see all the documentation of your work. Have you always been so hands on with every single detail and the luxury.

LAMY: Which luxury?

BJ PANDA BEAR: Like all the images of you picking out slabs of marble and everything.

LAMY: Yeah you know I completely fell in love with doing this. The material, and there is something about the story behind making the pieces. We have a collection where everything is coming from Pakistan. In another collection, we are finding camel fur in the Empty Quarters desert in Abu Dhabi. But everything is produced just outside of Paris. That’s just where we find the right people.

BJ PANDA BEAR: What type of music is inspiring for you? What have you been listening to lately?

LAMY: I’m very into techno, house. I love radio stations, but now they are so lacking. There were so many and they’ve disappeared. I listen here on the internet from France like continuous house music, but I like LSD from A$AP [Rocky], I like his music.

BJ PANDA BEAR: You and A$AP are close, right?

LAMY: Yep. We just did a performance together at Art Basel Miami. It was fantastic. I was so happy. It was in the Design District on a roof. Silencio, a club from Paris, opened it. It was this space and it was a performance with Caecilia Tripp. Where you never see her, but she is there. We were there. It was a nice courtyard in the design district, so the location was good. It was not a hotel, it was more its own space.

BJ PANDA BEAR: When you were laying out and organizing the exhibition, was there a central focus or drive for this particular project?

LAMY: Yeah, There was a special focus. The one thing is the prong. It is represented everywhere even if you don’t see it, because it’s the way that we attach a bench of six meters – by two prongs, there is flow. It is floating. It looks like you need to hammer something, but it is about floating. The paintings are hung on the side. The space was sort of difficult, because it is very high and there’s not so much space on the first floor. Then we made this huge wall in alabaster that is a weeping wall. That piece - you know, I did feel good because coming to LA, I was sort of seeking a home, found the right warehouse, and then we were able to make this space our space. And changing the dynamic of the space, that’s usually what I’ve seen is always a challenge.

BJ PANDA BEAR: You’re used to transforming spaces, right? Your place in Paris doesn’t have a specific living room, or even a specific kitchen.

LAMY: Right right.



BJ PANDA BEAR: It is often said that you are the muse behind the show, but also that you’re kind of spearheading all of it. What are your personal muses and inspirations for design? Do you have a muse yourself?

LAMY: I don’t know what a muse is in that way. When you are with someone and you are doing things together and people say that because it is too difficult to say what exactly it is. I’m sure there is something I am inspired by. I’m old enough that all of these pieces of inspiration are melting into something more personal for me. People I admire is more because they have the guts to do what they’re meant to do and especially now with what just happened in the election, I think people have to be strong and do something they believe in.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Since this is like a comeback to LA for you, have there been any restaurants or places new here that you really love?

LAMY: I came a couple of times to do this exhibition. So I’ve had time to visit many places here. This time around, I live at the Chateau. When I was with Rick, we lived for two years at the Chateau, because we got attacked at the house we lived in. I have some friends and I gave them a tour of Traction Avenue and where there used to be factories are now galleries. I am really, really happy to see that little part of downtown – it is still the same, sort of, like SCI-Arc is still there. It was always good, except Al’s Bar is closed, but American Hotel is still there. They always say there was no one there before. They were there. We weren't so underground, but the prices were different. I always liked Little Tokyo and Koreatown – and Korean baths! My favorite thing, I think they are better here than in Korea. Of course the beach, it is beautiful. I was at the beach for Thanksgiving. There were not many people there – just people skateboarding on Venice Beach.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Can we chat a little about Les Deux Cafe or is that something you’d rather not? Cause I’ve heard so many stories.

LAMY: You know it was fantastic. It has been like twelve years of doing this. It was great, it was a time. Me and Rick were living across the street. Now it’s set to be demolished in a few months. Everything there is going to be demolished because it is going to be a mall. Another mall.

BJ PANDA BEAR: That’s so nuts…

LAMY: You know there has been a story in Another Magazine written by Chris Wallace who was a maître d' at Les Deux Cafe. Then we had this great artist, Konstantin Kakanias, who did these drawings, because at the time people did not have cell phones so it was preferential to taking a picture. And because it was a private place, the drawing was so much better to help tell the stories.

BJ PANDA BEAR: I love hearing the stories.

LAMY: It made it even better. There was no Instagram. Can you believe? It was so long ago. It worked though, we had so many great stories.

BJ PANDA BEAR: They’re so epic. I don’t even know if some of them are real.

LAMY: That was a very great time.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Are you going to be spending more time in Los Angeles? What took you guys so long to come back? Does Rick ever come here?

LAMY: You know before this MOCA story, we never came back. Rick you know, he is not coming for the exhibition. We don’t want to be analyzing all of this, but at the same time it’s a lot of things that are happening so he decided not to come here and let me do all the work alone. I know that next year, we are going to be in Europe a lot. Lots of time in Venice for the Biennale, so it seems like these things are happening and then Rick is going to our show in Milano. But I feel very at home in New York.

BJ PANDA BEAR: In New York, really? I’ve heard stories about Rick not liking New York. Does he ever go there?

LAMY: Yeah he doesn’t come there.

BJ PANDA BEAR: I was going to ask about the crystal and foam you’re planning on working with. How did you guys get involved with that kind of material?

LAMY: One thing to the next. Right now in this show, there is foam. The main thing in this show that changed the old perspective is a big wall of carved alabaster - the weeping wall. That is so heavy. There’s a lot of totems. It’s difficult to explain without seeing it.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Can you talk a little bit about Steven Parrino’s work in the show?

LAMY: It started because we are doing a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. It was a Carol Rama show and they asked us to be guests with our furniture. It was this combination because there is something on the wall, and then something on the floor. So then when Phillipe Vergne asked us to do a show, we thought it would be nice to work with somebody, and who is better than Steven Parrino? I know that we always liked him and his work is very related to our work. Lot’s of canvases that you think are collapsed, but are actually very controlled.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Did you get to meet him when he was around?

LAMY: Not at all, because all the years he was in Europe, I was here. I did know about him. I could have met him in Paris, but I didn’t. He was more known in Europe than in the States and he had a lot of collectors in Geneva. Did you like his work?

BJ PANDA BEAR: I like his work and his minimalist sort of nihilistic work. It reminds me a bit of Alan Vega’s work from Suicide and I like that deconstructed sort of connection between music and fashion.

LAMY: Steven Parrino’s work is very connected to those worlds. It speaks very well to this show at MOCA.


Rick Owens: Furniture will be on view until April 2, 2017 at MOCA Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. Interview by BJ Panda Bear. Intro text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Creepers: An Interview Of Up And Coming Artist Daniel Boccato

Daniel Boccato is a 25-year-old Brazilian artist living in New York and is the subject of his first New York solo show at The Journal Gallery, entitled Creepers. After studying at Cooper Union, he developed a style that merges painting and sculpture by utilizing industrial materials (Fiberglass and epoxy, resin, etc.) to create vague and opaque shapes that leave a multitude of impressions on the viewer. His work shares some characteristics with Justin Adian’s foam paintings, but whereas Adian’s work relies on a precision informed by art deco aesthetics, Boccato’s angular figures take on no obvious meaning. The New York Times has fittingly referred to his work as, “dumb, but in a smart way.”

The works on view at The Journal Gallery have a gloss and sheen that belies their harsh interiors and difficult to discern subtexts. Boccato’s work connects with the viewers on an individual level. It doesn’t force the viewer into reading his/her own perpsective on the work as much as it facilitates a more general aesthetic imagination boost. That approach has resulted in Boccato’s star rising: Ryan McGinley shouted Boccato out from Art Basel Miami Beach via his Instagram page: “New Discovery #danielboccato” reads the caption of an image taken of a couple of Boccato’s stylized forms. Daniel and I spoke at the gallery about his new show and finding his voice in an over-saturated art world.

ADAM LEHRER:  When did you start becoming aware of or interested in visual art and creativity of any kind?

DANIEL BOCCATO: I was always drawing as a kid. My father is a musician so I always liked playing music and up until high school, those two things were really important to me. At a certain point in the course of my education, I was supposed to choose a path and go to school so then I chose to go to Cooper Union, but I still really liked to play music and it was just one choice.

LEHRER: Did you want to be a rockstar first?

BOCCATO: Well, maybe. I have this very cute picture of myself like banging on some tupperware.

LEHRER: I wanted to be a rockstar, for sure. Music was the first thing that I liked. I got my first copy of Rolling Stone when I was 7. Marilyn Manson was on the cover and I went through all those bad phases of music. 

BOCCATO: It’s funny this idea of developing taste. I grew up with my father who is a jazz and Brazilian musician so that was definitely a very strong influence and it’s only fairly recently when I was living by myself or at least in high school that I really started picking out things for myself and started to question what I grew up with. 

LEHRER: What is Brazil’s popular music?

BOCCATO: Samba, Bossa Nova - those are the more famous styles. But also more folk and pop. There’s a big mixture.

LEHRER: What got you interested in visual culture?

BOCCATO: I liked cartoons. That was my entry towards awareness of form. Up until my freshmen year in college, I was still doing experiments and playing around with [animation]. The first “job” I had was in an animation studio in Brazil of all places. [My boss] was an independent animator who was producing his first feature length movie. I was able to participate in that. I was twelve and I did it twice a week. It was just an internship at first and then it became more regular because in Brazil school starts in January. So because of that gap, I was able to not go to school for half a year just work and play music and draw and do animations.

LEHRER: That must have taught you a lot about professionalism?

BOCCATO: Kind of. When I was at Cooper, I took three semesters away. Throughout all of them, I was working for artists to not be stuck in a school environment. I think it’s very important to have this balance to be in this institution and then coming back in with a different critical perspective and going out again and continuing to develop.

LEHRER: When you were at Cooper Union, did you already have an idea of the specific medium that you developed for yourself using industrial materials and playing with form the way you do?

BOCCATO: It’s a very personal question, I can see a lot of connections with things that I was doing [in school]. I was doing a lot of sculptures then but in a more abstract way. And these works, they came out of that aesthetic in some sense, but I think they came together with this “caricature-esque” sense of form and color; something more deliberately formed. The work is more constructed from an initial idea. So this way of working is something that I started in the latter part of my school years.

LEHRER: What was it that drew you to using these types of more industrial materials?

BOCCATO: It was the necessity to achieve what I wanted to do. I do understand that the materials I used in the show you could categorize as industrial, but I see a difference in two kinds. One is the actual materials that I’m using that will remain in the piece: resin, fiberglass all that stuff. And the other is simplified DIY Home Depot material: tarp, plastic, tape . I look at them differently. Those materials allow me to do the piece and I need those materials for certain physical characteristics, and the other stuff is about the aesthetic and the texture, about shape and form. What drives me to it? I don’t know. I like the fact that they’re cheap and simple and give a certain kind of humble vibe to it.

LEHRER: What I find interesting about them is that they look kind of polished and they have a sheen to them. They don’t look harsh or aggressive.

BOCCATO: They’re very unassuming. It’s kind of a blank slate in which I can use to create these forms.

LEHRER: ‘Creepers’ is an interesting name for a show and you use titles rather interestingly. When you are using a title, does it become part of the piece in a way? Are you trying to express something that you find in your concept or is it an impression on a piece or do you just like playing with words?

BOCCATO: I like playing with words, for sure. Well the title has become like database entry where you need the dimensions, the medium, and the title is part of that as well. The title is perhaps the more significant information, but all of this database context is significant.

I like Excel a lot. It’s less of an interpretation of the piece. It’s a funny question because titles can have that function, but I look at it the same as using these other rows on Excel sheets like color, size. t’s not my reading of the work. Of course, everyone can have their own subjective relations and connections with what it sounds like and what it looks like the same you can have that with the color or the form or whatever. It’s just another element, another dimension. 



LEHRER: I thought it was interesting reading the press release for this show and it says something about your work having “figuration and abstraction, but never anything in between.” What do you think about that reading and do you think that’s true at all?

BOCCATO: Yeah, it’s the idea that you can be in one moment or another and shifting back and forth between these two quite distinct things. Figuration and abstraction can be seen as a spectrum but it can also be seen as two different ways of thinking or approaching objects I like the idea that something arbitrary can be felt as not arbitrary. The same way that I like to talk about data: color and form are all just data. Data in some sense is arbitrary.That’s what this play between these two modes of figuration and abstraction mean to me. That you suddenly walk into this room and you see these shapes but then you start having an emotional and spiritual subjective relation to them because they become these sort of characters, they have their own souls in a way. But you can also shift back, backtrack from that. There’s something very compelling for me in this activity. 

LEHRER: Is there an architectural element at work in this show? Do you always know exactly what you’re going to do before you start a piece? 

BOCCATO: Because of the nature of the process I need to have an outline and I need to cut it. In that moment, to be able to cut it, that outline is pretty defined. I can’t really add to it or change it that much. As soon as I start painting—that’s the first step and then I do the mould and then I reinforce it with resin—there’s no chance to go back and to end it. So I need to have a good plan but there’s a lot of unexpected things that happen in the middle. For example, the walls of the piece, because of the weight of the resin, start to flop down or the piece starts to contort.

LEHRER: Yeah, that’s what I figured because it just seems like you have a precise handling of your process. Do you listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcasts ever? He has this one episode about how genius emerges and the two type of artists. He uses Elvis Costello’s fifth album, his shittiest album, but there’s one song on there that he re-worked several times and then it became one of his biggest hits so he argues that Elvis Costello’s an experimental artist: he really has to work at what he’s doing. Whereas a conceptual artist has their idea, knows how to carry it out and carries it out right away.

BOCCATO: Yeah but I think it begs the question: where’s the experimentation? And where’s the discovery? And where’s the delivery? And where’s the production? I think all those things have their own places. I do like very much the idea that I can be my own assistant in a way. That once I have a certain vision I’m also able to carry that out without having to be creative and sensitive all the time. I like the idea of having an idea and then being able to do it. Also I think you can be creative by by editing or deleting your choices.

LEHRER: Writing about the NADA Art Fair last yeah, Ken Johnson, writing for the New York Times, considered your piece one of the pieces to look out for and wrote that your work is “dumb in a smart way.” Would you describe that as a fair statement?

BOCCATO: I think it’s very a special compliment. I think it’s true. I like the idea of dumb and stupid, or even retarded, even if it isn’t politically correct. It’s cool to go slow, it allows you to see other things that you wouldn’t otherwise. 

LEHRER: That’s true. And when I think of something that’s dumb in a smart way I think of so many awesome things: I think of John Waters movies, I think of Devo the band—

BOCCATO: That’s also true for most of the things I do. That’s why I think of it as a compliment.

LEHRER: What type of beauty are you trying to create? If you could describe it? 

BOCCATO: Beauty has to do with form. So that’s the type of beauty I’m interested in. It’s what I was saying before: of course everything is arbitrary but it is the illusion, the idea that things aren’t arbitrary. That you can have a reason to make this thing or that thing is a beautiful idea. 

LEHRER: Yeah, for sure. Just to finish up: as an artist of a certain age, I was interested in talking about what it’s like to break into the art market now. You’re twenty-five years old and you’re picking up heat in your career. Do you find that it’s easier to get your work noticed now? Or easier and harder to make a living? How does one break into the market now? 

BOCCATO: I don’t know. Let me know when you find out. 

LEHRER: Haha. This is huge though, getting a solo show. The way I think about it now, for all creative fields, is that it’s way easier to get noticed but way fucking harder to get paid. 

BOCCATO: Well I think what’s easier is to disseminate but it’s harder to create a sense of history. There’s so much going on and increasingly less memory.

LEHRER: As a critic, the amount of press releases that I get on daily basis that I could never get to is totally overwhelming to both buckle down and make my art but also to stay tapped in. I wonder if our generation will have its Cindy Sherman, you know? 

BOCCATO: I think that throughout wars and everything you have those who win and those who lose but that’s not actually because of what happened but because of how people narrate it and because of the future. So I think that will continue to happen but if you have a lot of people writing history then perhaps it will be different.


Creepers will be on view until January 15 at The Journal Gallery in New York. Text, interview and photos by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Wish I Wasn't Here: An Interview of Maritza Yoes and Sean Monahan On Their Art Basel Collaboration With Snapchat and Artsy

The gap between technology, advertisement and art is nearly sealed. With years of philosophical rants over context, technique and accessibility often polarizing the art crowd. Today it seems unrealistic to not have some internet served with your art. During Art Basel Miami Beach, Maritza Yoes, one of the founders of LACMA’s social media channel and Sean Monahan, one of the founders of trend forecasting darlings K-HOLE, collaborated with Artsy and Snapchat to bring an array of artists out of the galleries and onto our phones with a range of special edition Snapchat geofilters. The filters were located around the city at prominent art locations featuring a grouping of artist including Chloe Wise and Katherine Bernhardt. I caught up with them to find out how this meeting of art and technology is just the beginning.

BJ Panda Bear: So, can you tell us about the project?

Snapchat is our favorite platform for creativity. We were excited to help make this project come to life to give artists a chance to play with the platform in a deeper way and for Snapchatters to have an accessible art experience. Without going into too much detail, Snapchat had a great idea for artist-designed geofilters. Sean and I helped bring Artsy and Snapchat together to make the creative initiative happen.

BJ: Have you worked with Snapchat in this art context before?

Yes, I have a relationship with Snapchat from my LACMA ties. I was an early art pioneer on the platform through my LACMA work so there's some good mutual trust.



BJ: Is it true that you got LACMA on Snapchat? 

True! I developed LACMA's Snapchat account and the strategy of meshing pop-culture and art history. The pairings are meant to be simultaneously irreverent and thought-provoking. LACMA has continued to maintain the strategy and it's still seeing a lot of success!

BJ: What drives a project like this?

An interest in how art, culture, social media, and technology can converge. We're constantly thinking about opportunities to explore new technologies in an art context. Finding ways for the worlds of art and technology to work together is at the heart of our participation with the project. 

BJ: What does cultural strategist mean?

"Cultural strategy" is our definition for bringing creative people and culturally relevant opportunities together. Full time I work as a social strategist with an emphasis on arts, tech, and culture, but I also love introducing people and helping make collaborations happen, this is something I do naturally! Sean is a full-time freelancer and branding genius. He was a founding member of the art collective K-HOLE where he worked with businesses that had the uncompromising creative integrity of art.


text and interview by BJ Panda Bear for Autre Magazine. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Down To Flux: An Interview Of Ezra Miller's Band Sons of an Illustrious Father

text by Darren Luk

Sons Of An Illustrious Father is a three piece indie band that's very DTF. Down To Flux that is. Based in New York, the quirky members Lilah Larson, Josh Aubin and Ezra Miller (who you would perhaps recognize as an actor in films like We Need to Talk About Kevin, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or his role as The Flash) enjoy defying genre conventions and sharing center stage, alternating between instruments and vocals. They've once called their sound future folk and heavy meadow, but avoid being defined, always experimenting with their sound and making DIY video clips. Although they don't take themselves too seriously, the subject matters that they do explore within their music, continually contributes to social, cultural and political conversations that encompass racial, gender and other global issues. Having released a new album 'Revol' this year and been on tour, we thought it would be fitting to give them a call to catch up on what they've been up to, how their music comes together, issues they are concerned with right now and their favorite phone app.

DARREN LUK: Hey, how are you guys going?

LILAH: Hello! Good, how are you going?

LUK: Good, good! What's happening on your side of the world?

LILAH: I mean generally on our side of the world, it's freaky. We're not doing such a great job as a nation, but as a band in this studio, I think we're killing it.

LUK: You've had a busy year touring, playing at SXSW and released an album 'Revol'. How are you feeling as we come to the end of the year?

JOSH: It's been a roller-coaster.  It's been a wild year you know? There's been a lot of learning and feeling.

LILAH: You sound like you’re saying all the things you should say to answer that question.

JOSH: Isn't that what I'm supposed to be saying in situations like now?

LILAH: Yes Josh, yes.

LUK: How would you describe some of the best or worst things that's happened on tour?

EZRA: It's like looking for a book in a library and trying to choose one.

JOSH: …Or choosing your favorite page of a book. When you think of a book, you don't think of the individual pages but maybe a blurb of what the book was, and it's more about the essence of the book rather than the page.

LILAH: It's kind of a radical feminist speculative fiction à la Ursula K. Le Guin I would say.

JOSH: Yes, I would also agree with Ursula K. Le Guin.

LILAH: That's the book we've been living in, that we are characters of.

EZRA: It involves things like going to a park in Washington D.C. and meeting a group of circus performers and having one of them teach us about self realization.

JOSH: Did that happen?

LILAH: Yeah! Remember?

JOSH: Oh yes.

EZRA: Or wandering through a lightening storm and holding each other in fear and awe.

LUK: That sounds like a good metaphor!

LILAH: That's not a metaphor [laughs], that actually happened at SXSW.

EZRA: We are living metaphors.

LILAH: Yea, a lot of our experiences are good metaphors.

LUK: Do you have any interesting rituals you guys do like before gigs?

JOSH: Yes!

LILAH: We always hold each other and make eye contact, and sometimes sync our breath to become present.

EZRA: We give thanks. We tell each other that we love one another and that we're thankful for our time. That's the essence. There's a lot of secret rituals, layers and layers from there, but that's what we make sure to do before any show.

LUK: You are all talented multi-instrumentalists. What are your earliest memories of music and how you started?

LILAH: I grew up pretending to play instruments before I could play instruments. My earliest memory was being  around instruments and just knowing I was going to play them.

EZRA: I remember a specific drum when I was very young. Some sort of street fair, and there was a drum that could be played even by belligerent children.

LILAH: Yea, I had a tiny, very poorly executed replica of one of Elvis' guitars with his signature on it. It wasn't practically useful but I fake played it.

JOSH: My parents kept a keyboard under their bed, but I was too shy to play it when they were home. When they left the house I would sneak up into their bedroom and play the keyboard under the bed.

LILAH: I did not know that, is that real?

JOSH: Who knows.

EZRA: What was the keyboard really… in this real life metaphor? What's the keyboard beneath your parents bed?

JOSH: Well, just under the bed was a storage of space.

LILAH: Ah, a storage space.

LUK: How do you feel like the dynamic between the three of you influences the way you create your music?

EZRA: It's integral.

JOSH: It's integrated.

EZRA: [laughs] .. It's integral and then integrated.

LILAH: I think that the fact that we are so intimate with each other in our every day lives, and in our relationships in general, creates a space that allows us to be very exploratory in music. We all feel really safe to be weird and vulnerable together and I think that's crucial for whatever artistic goodness we achieve.

LUK: Within the band all three of you interchange between roles, singing and playing different instruments for different tracks. How does the music usually come together and what's the process like?

LILAH: Usually the songs either of us predominantly sing in, we have written at least the bulk of. But, increasingly there are songs that any one of us writes, some parts we feel a certain person should be singing. I think that's just another thing, knowing each other so well and being so comfortable with one another, it happens at this point quite organically. It's just a shared inner knowledge.

EZRA: It's cool because, on this work we are recording right now, there's a song that all of us sing different parts of, that two of us wrote different parts to. There's another song that was written completely collaboratively. There's an evolution, where there are songs that have completely come from a collaborative process instead of just one of us bringing a song to the band. That's always sort of our interest - to keep pushing the boundaries of that interpersonal communion further.

JOSH: We're learning to work together better.

LUK: It's an interesting evolution. In your latest album Revol, you have three songs each that you've each written separately and then worked-shopped together, but how do you choose what works more cohesively in an album?

EZRA: I think we try not to worry. The ship flies itself. We just follow the instructions and remember to work together…

LILAH, JOSH, EZRA: … As a space team.

EZRA: The real answer is that we go through funny dramatic processes to find ordering. A lot of it, is about feeling our transitions and how they give us a sequitur, psychologically or emotionally. So if one song ends like "ooo" then the next songs comes in like "eeeeeerrr."

LUK: What are some challenges you've come across being a band that seeks to defy normative standards in genre, gender and idea conventions?

LILAH: I mean, I think the first difficult thing for anyone in any context trying to defy normative standards is how much the external world wants to keep you inside those standards and maintain them. That's certainly true for us as a band. People have a lot of trouble, for one thing, with the idea that there are three singers and no one person only plays one instrument. It's mostly just about the difficulty, just like having the courage and conviction and righteous indignation, to remember despite what other's externally might impose, that we know what we're doing, we're doing it right, and that's true of person gender expression and also as band, being a weird band.

LUK: Are you guys experimenting on new sounds at the moment?

LILAH: We have a new drum called Tom Cat.

JOSH: Actually, we've kind of had two new drums, compared to the last album.

EZRA: Yea, we're working with more electronic sounds, digital and analogue. There's definitely a new sound. I don't think we've endeavored to attempt to describe or define it yet, but it's maybe we can call it…

LILAH: …Genre queer…our sound uses they, them and their pronouns (laughs).

EZRA: It's like alternative television show theme song.

LILAH: Yea, it's like if you took the instrumental from a musical theatre play and asked a moderately skilled punk band to play it (laughs).

LUK: Your music always explores and actively voices about social, cultural and political issues. What are some issues that you are particularly concerned with right now?

EZRA: Stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline in solidarity with Oceti Sakowin [Camp] and the confederation of tribes that are resisting this pipeline. It seems like it's becoming the paramount issue, one of the great fights of our lives. It's such a critical moment for Indigenous people, First Nations people drawing a line in the sand when it comes to environmental destruction, which is the brink we are on as a species and it's not a drill. I think that it seems like this pipeline becomes the living metaphor as well as the very actual dire call to arms for people interested in, even the short term future of our survival on this planet.

LUK: If you guys were the President for the day, what would you change or do?

EZRA: Enough stuff that we weren't the president anymore.

LILAH: I was going to say, just start a nation state, declare anarchy, formally disband The United States of America and renounce my imperial crown (laughs).

LUK: Ezra, being in an indie band and also working on Hollywood films as well, how do you feel, kind of walking the line between these two different worlds?

EZRA: I think that fine line is a strange way to put it, because at the end of the day we're all just trying to make good work in our various mediums. We come together as a band to be a sort of a single instrument, to have this single medium together. But that's just one of the things that really powers us. I think it's really healthy in the way that each of us express through our own channels separately outside of the band. It's like in a partnership where both people having good stuff happening in their lives.

JOSH: Something like that.

LUK: Are you working on projects separately, musically as well?

LILAH: Yeah, we're all always writing and playing in some capacity on our own. I'm releasing a solo album in January. We're always scheming and working, and scheming when we can be together as much as possible.

LUK: What would you say some of your music influences that you resonate with?

JOSH: The Muppets.

LILAH: The Muppets...let’s see…Patti Smith...

EZRA: The Band.

LILAH: Yea, I'm comfortable with that selection for the day.

LUK: Obviously you guys are tight-knit friends. What do you guys do outside of music?

JOSH: As friends or as enemies?

LUK: I guess, both!

JOSH: Laser tag is epic

LILAH: We're really into the show Daredevil. We watch it together.

EZRA: Yea, we also play Spaceteam the app game.

LILAH: We have a lot of really good meals.

EZRA: We're really into food.

LILAH: We're really good with meals.

EZRA: We do dance and we talk a lot.

LILAH: We talk so much.

JOSH: I spend a lot of time listening, and they spend a lot of time talking.

LILAH: It's not, not true.

LUK:Do you have any hobbies?

LILAH: I like to ferment things.

JOSH: I like the play games.

EZRA: I like archery.

JOSH: I like hiking

EZRA: I like hiking and camping, spending time with nature.

JOSH: Nature's a good thing to spend time with.

LUK: What's your favorite invention and why?

LILAH: I think that funnels are amazing. It's a principle for so many things. You need a funnel for making coffee. A funnel in general is a really important invention. You need them for cars, you need them for coffee.

JOSH: College parties.

LILAH: Any sort of pouring, beers, keg stands

EZRA: My favorite invention is Lilah's favorite hobby.

LILAH: Fermentation, pickling.

LUK: What's a secret talent you have?

LILAH: As far as skills, Josh has an eerie ability to name the year that a film came out.

JOSH: Try me.

LUK: Okay, hmm...how about Blade Runner?

JOSH: 1982

LUK: Let me Google this. Ok…you're right, it's 1982!

EZRA: Ohhh, that's amazing. When you test something like that and like, oh gosh is it going to work when you put this much attention on it, and it does, it's just spectacular.

LUK: What about you two?

EZRA: I'd say the edge where a secret becomes sharable for me in terms of skills sets, would be overtone singing.

LILAH: I'm really good at cutting hair.

LUK: If Sons of Illustrious we’re superheroes, what would be their power and saving people from?

EZRA: We would be a triumvirate sonic superheroes in the most basic sense, if we really analyze what's going on here, from a comic book perspective. We create this triangulation of sound capable of moving things, like the hearts of listeners anywhere.

LILAH: Through a synergistic, telepathic exertion we can heal and move the hearts of those around us.

JOSH: Sound power!

LILAH: A mix of telepathy and sound power.

EZRA, LILAH, JOSH: Working together.. as a space team.

LUK: What's this little thing about space team?

EZRA: It's the app that we told you about we play called Spaceteam.

LILAH: The great producer Howard Bilerman introduced us to this game and we are forever thankful.

LUK: And it's a multi player game?

EZRA: It's a multi player game. You control a spaceship together, sort of Star Trek style.

JOSH: You kind of don't control the spaceship, the ship flies itself.

LILAH: But, you try to prevent catastrophe together. You have to turn all the dials and stuff, and give each other instructions.

EZRA: What's great is that it's not only a great way to past time, but also wonderful communication game, where you have to listen and speak up simultaneously. It's very good for bands.

LILAH: It's perfect for bands.

EZRA: And it fills those gaps of time between a sound check and your show. We highly recommend it.

LUK: Cool I'll check it out! Do you have any upcoming projects for 2017?

LILAH: Well, we're in the studio right now, working on an album.

EZRA: There's literally a track being mixed in the room behind us. Oliver Ignatius, we're at Mama Coco's Funky Kitchen which is a place very near and dear to our hearts. An amazing recording studio, and sort of centre HQ of a musical familial movement happening in Brooklyn, New York. It's great to be back here. We've worked with Oliver for a long time and feel really comfortable with our process with him. He's such a gift to that process. There's a bunch of playing shows, making videos and releasing songs coming up.

LUK: Lastly, for people who haven't heard of know Sons Of An Illustrious Father. How would you describe it three words?

LILAH: Music for you (laughs)… terrible.

EZRA: Down to flux.


Click here to download Sons Of An Illustrious Father's most recent album. text and interview by Darren Luk. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


There's No Place Like CHARLIEWOOD: An Interview Of Cult Hairstylist And Artist Charlie Le Mindu

text by BJ Panda Bear

Charlie Le Mindu recently presented CHARLIEWOOD at the Faena theater during Art Basel Miami, the second performance that debuted in Paris at Palais de Tokyo. The Barrett Barrera Projects produced show was a surreal walk through his vision of abstract sexuality that was anything but binary. With a host like Lady Fag and an opening act by drag terrorist Christeene, it was equal parts queer shocker and electro gold. Watching the performance took the audience’s minds out of anything they had seen, there was no turning back from the master craftsmens vision that was expanded by endless spills of tequila. 

Charlie has long had a history as the go to Haute Coiffure, crafting hair and wigs with in the realm of surreal otherworldliness, this extension of head pieces in motion spoke of a necessary need provide movement and life to the meticulously crafted works of art. Autre got a moment to find out what provoked Charlie’s expanded vision. 

Autre: How did you get involved with this project? How did you create it?

Charlie Le Mindu: I don’t know. No, I’m joking. Basically, with my gallery and my agent, Barrett Barrera. It’s a show I did at Palais de Tokyo and I wanted to make it a traveling show so we decided to do it in New York and in Art Basel.

Autre: How did you conceive the concept initially?

Le Mindu: You know, my inspiration is people like Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, surreal painters and what I wanted to do was bring their paintings alive. You know? So that’s what I tried to do.

Autre: And what was the most technical piece of costuming that you did?

Le Mindu: I guess it’s the last one with the fiber optic. That was intense, yeah.

Autre: Awesome, overall how did you get involved with LadyFag and all that?

Le Mindu: Well it’s people that inspire me so I guess it’s great to work with them always and it was a good opportunity because my gallery asked me if I would want to work with them

Autre: How did the dances come into it?

Le Mindu: I mean some of the dance stuff came from different cabaret in Paris. I’m not allowed to give the names, but one of the good sexy ones in Paris and just I just chose the people for their body and their mentality.

Autre: I think that’s amazing that you used Christeene and you had various body shapes and everything

Le Mindu: Yeah, you know in my performance I tried to show different kinds of beauty and what inspires me.

Autre: Love babes, Thank you!


You can learn more about Charlie Le Mindu here. See photos from CHARLIEWOOD in our daily diary. text and interview by BJ Panda Bear. photograph by Patrick McMullen


Ritualized Catharsis: An Interview of Hyon Gyon

text by Adam Lehrer

South Korean New York-based visual artist and painter Hyon Gyon’s Chinatown studio is hard to miss. Walking down Canal Street past the skateboarders that grind the rails along the bike path at the bottom of the Manhattan side of the Manhattan bridge, the markets that smell ripe of fish and assorted edible sea creatures, and the dizzyingly busy intersection of a diverse population, you finally take a right on Eldridge Street. Quite visibly from the opposite end of the block your eye catches an out-of-place looking two floor building with a massive sign that reads “Hyon Gyon.” The building looks more like a hut or a place of worship than an emerging visual artist’s studio. Considering Gyon’s aesthetic and work, that notion could feel rather deliberate on part of the artist. But talking to Gyon for any length of time quickly dispels that notion. Her studio is just an outgrowth of her practice, and her practice lacks any grand conceptual conceit. She channels energy into her art. What you see is simply what has come out of her.

Inside that studio is a visual world perhaps even more rarified and indicative of Gyon’s work than the locale’s exterior. The first floor is half work space and half gallery displaying several of Gyon’s large-scale and quite spectacular paintings that combine the markings of abstract expressionism and traditional Korean shamanistic imagery alongside Gyon’s scattered work materials. The room is accented by vibrant Korean carpets that cover almost the entirety of the floor. Upstairs, Gyon maintains a sizable collection of art and design books and has been stockpiling an assortments of garments that Gyon has taken to painting, deconstructing, and refashioning. At the center of the artifacts and tasteful junk is Gyon herself: ethereally beautiful, petite, and adorned in a sparkly pink top over a Rolling Stones t-shirt, she abstractly resembles the ideas that flow out of her in her work.

Gyon was attending university when she decided to be an artist professionally. Initially interested in fashion and having even worked at a studio that designed traditional Korean garments, Gyon’s decision to work in the fine arts was catapulted by the death of her grandmother. When Gyon’s grandmother passed, her family took part in a gut (pronounced: “goot”) ritual for her; in these ceremonies, a Korean shaman leads a series of sacrifices, physical gestures and prayers to the gods that theoretically enable a peaceful transition for the human spirit to leave the physical plane and enter into the spiritual plane. But in a more tangibly relatable manner, the gut ritual serves the purpose of allowing the deceased’s loved ones to move on. To purge negativity. To experience catharsis. That ritualized catharsis had a deep impact on Gyon, and she knew then that she had found her subject manner. “It’s hard to describe what happened to me,” says Gyon referring to her catharsis felt during the gut ritual. “Something in me had changed. I knew that I wanted people to experience emotion through my work.”

Gyon focuses on bold paintings and abstract sculptures with textile elements that use the faces and bodies of monstrous characters, or “incarnations” as she calls them, that are emblematic of specific emotions from the wide scale of human feeling. After working and developing her practice in Japan for 13 years, Gyon moved to New York in 2013 on a residency supported by her new dealers at Shin Gallery. The residency first resulted in a pop-up show entitled Hyon Gyon and The Factory that referenced Warhol and saw Gyon producing at truly Warholian (or should we say Herculean?) rates. This year, Shin included Gyon’s work alongside titans like Balthus and Salvador Dali in a group show entitled I Wanna Be Me that used its Sex Pistols aping title to celebrate utterly personal expression in a world of appropriation. But the greatest testament to Gyon’s talents at this juncture was her first eponymous Shin Gallery solo show that ran over the summer. The centerpiece of the show was the sculptural Headpiece that saw Gyon applying oil paints to pillows. Every pillow was its own face unlike any of the other faces and, according to Gyon, each represented a human emotion. The stacking of the pillows on top of one another and fashioning them to collide into one another was emblematic of any single human being’s psychology: chaotic and disorganized but still working together to create a definable whole. While so much of the conceptual art world explores the anxiety and paranoia that technology has unleashed upon the world populace, Gyon looks toward a concept that is, if not divine, than spiritual. Her work is awake and tapped into something that lives above the cacophony of daily existence. I had to talk to her.

LEHRER: What were you going through emotionally while in university that led you to transition into creating art works?

Gyon: During my first master course, I was working through my own personal experiences with my grandmother having just passed and that prompted me to focus on my work. I was enjoying making art, but really didn’t know what I wanted to make and I wasn’t sure what my subject matter would be. I was looking for something. We held a a “gut” ritual for her and that had a big impact on me.

LEHRER: Obviously having your grandmother pass away is an emotional event, but what was it about the ceremony specifically that you connected with making artwork?

Gyon: I was not very close with my grandmother.  I was not a good grandchild. I did very bad things to her. I regretted this. After she passed away, I couldn’t do anything for her. It made me so sad and I wanted to meet her again. 

LEHRER: So you felt making art somehow would connect you to your grandmother in the way that you couldn’t while she was alive?

Gyon: Yes. During the Guy Ceremony, I felt I could meet my grandmother, like I could talk to my grandmother. I had such negative emotions in my mind and after the ceremony, they were gone. Not completely gone, but my emotions changed.

LEHRER: Your artwork is obviously very emotional. I was curious, I read that as a child, you liked burning textiles and that this became a part of your process later on. For you, was that destructive act also a creative act?

Gyon: Mhmm

LEHRER: Could you explain that a little bit?

Gyon: As a kid, I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to play with my friends. I just wanted to be alone. My mom had a lot of fabrics and I wanted to do something with them. Draw, paint, write. But, I used a lighter. It didn’t work. It all burned

LEHRER: I’ve read articles about the fashion designer Margiela when he was still around.

Gyon: I love him

LEHRER: When people asked why he sent ripped clothing down the runway, he said for him ripping clothes is just another creative act. It’s like you’re destroying something to create something else. 

GYON: I use that process, always. When I make a painting, I’ll destroy it, remake it, destroy it. It’s much better in the end. 

LEHRER: Your work has been broken down into these five different ideas: Incarnations, hair which I guess is a metaphor for life and how life can continue after death, the stigma of the shaman lifestyle of being ostracized or put away from your community, but called upon for important funerals and things like that, and catharsis. That sounds very specific. What sort of lead you to focus on these five ideas?

Gyon: I don’t think it’s so specific. It’s about life and death. Happy or unhappy.

LEHRER: So many contemporary artists now are dealing with the paranoia surrounding the digital age and surveillance technology. But your work is still dealing with the big themes of life, death, and spirituality. Obviously you have have a laptop and Wi-Fi, but do you feel yourself consciously disconnecting from technology to get in touch with your work?

Gyon: I’m not a huge technology person.

LEHRER: That helps

Gyon: I have to use laptop, i have to use iPhone. Instagram brought you and I together, it has a power. It’s so amazing. I use it, but I am very human.

LEHRER: Are you religious or just spiritual?

Gyon: I don’t have any religion. Shamans aren’t about religion, they are spiritual. 

LEHRER: Right, and they can be like medicine men too? Healers? 

Gyon: Yes, healers. That’s why I’m interested. I’m not very interested in religions. I mean, I used to go to church and used to go to Temple. You know, the Temple is a very interesting place in Chinatown. 

LEHRER: I was wondering, too, because your work does have elements of abstract expressionism and also some figuration to it, were you influenced at all by the conventional schools of art history? Are you trying to blend these concepts of ritual with the traditions of art history?

Gyon: Blend. Everything is hybrid. I always use juxtaposition—so high culture and low culture. I am always trying to juxtapose emotion and culture. My work does not just focus on shamanism. 

LEHRER: Yeah, because it still is in the context of contemporary art and art history and things like that. So for some of your work, Headcount for instance, when I first saw it I was amazed by the way it almost implies an explosive imagination. How do all those faces and characters appear to you? And how do they flow out of you?

Gyon: They just came out. And each piece is different, with different faces. I didn’t make them as a portrait, I just filled them in with emotions. I was transformed by other people. It just came out. 

LEHRER: Do you think that they’re all feelings? 

Gyon: Yes. I don’t know, it just came out and I can’t explain why. I made it by myself. 

LEHRER: You don’t use assistants or anything? 

Gyon: Some people helped me with the sewing and stuffing the cotton, but basically I do it by myself. 

LEHRER: That’s what’s so interesting about art criticism is that sometimes we take meaning from the work that’s so much different than what’s intended. 

Gyon: So different, yeah. And I really hate that people want to know what the meaning of the painting is, of these characters. It’s too much for me. I really don’t want to explain everything, every marking

LEHRER: One thing I did want to ask you though is you used to design traditional Korean garments? When did you notice the potential in those fabrics for other creative purposes? 

Gyon: I always loved clothing. I always loved the fabrics. I wanted to be a designer more than a painter. I don’t know why I’m a painter. That experience was really amazing. I didn’t even want to be an artist because I thought that it was impossible to live as one. I just went to the interview and had no idea how to make the clothing, I still can’t do it, but the designer hired me because I was really good with using color and good at drawing. And so that’s how I started working there. It was amazing. Amazing. I didn’t know how beautiful the traditional Korean dresses were. I’m very proud of it. It’s super inspiring. I mean, that’s why I went to Japan, because I wanted to study fashion. 


Follow Hyon Gyon on Instagram. text and interview by Adam Lehrer


Riding The Conceptual Wave: An Interview Of Alex Knost And Daniella Murphy On Founding The Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center

Costa Mesa, California isn’t necessarily a place where you would find a conceptual art center. Typically, you’d find miles and miles of industrial centers of commerce, nondescript retail hubs, shopping malls and franchises. Under the Southern California sun, Costa Mesa is more a setting for a novel about a society on the verge of a postmodern existential crisis. But within this crisis, you’ll find a bit of catharsis with the brand new Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center. Founded by surfer, surf historian, artist and musician Alex Knost, who recently came out with a collaborative album with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and curator Daniella Murphy, the CMCAC is a small haven for creativity in a wide strangulating vortex of urban commercialism. Located on a boulevard that looks like a hundred other boulevards – about an hour from Downtown Los Angeles – the CMCAC is conceptual in and of itself. It is not a large fancy art complex with multimillion-dollar donations and starchitect design – it is a simple storage facility acting as a gallery and a launching pad for local artists and musicians. The first artist to show at the space is Justin Adams – his exhibition, Dancing Baby, is on view now. Autre got a chance to catch up with Murphy and Knost to discuss their art center and what it means to the art world as a whole. 

Douglas Neill: What was the impetus for opening the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center with the work of Justin Adams?

Daniella Murphy: Justin lives in Alex Knost’s garage, informally. He made a spate of paintings in a really short amount of time. Alex came back from tour and Justin had made a ton of paintings, the bulk of which you see here. I think that’s how it came together. We saw what he had made and we prompted him to let us show it.

Neill: Is Justin’s process part of what interested you in showcasing his work?

Alex Knost: Justin’s process is more or less constantly participating in deconstruction. As far as being an artist who showcases his work, that’s not really him. Most of these paintings were produced in steps. All over the place…on the bed, on the ground. He’d just always be in there, tinkering about. It wasn’t really something that he presented to us at all.  It was more us prying and taking away the blankets and tee shirts that were covering all the work he had been making over the six months or so and actually looking at each other and being informally persuaded on our own recognition. I think we’re still talking him into it. He’s generally quite uncomfortable.

Murphy: We had to draw it out of him. The prime artistic act, that’s what he is.

Neill: It looks like he really digs in...using his hands.

Murphy: He uses paintbrushes and his hands and whatever he has. A lot of these canvases were found. One of the works is actually part of his car.

Neill: Lots of emotion.

Murphy: It’s definitely an outlet for him, an emotional outlet.

Neill: How did you guys come together to start the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center?

Murphy: We kind of talked about it and yeah I went to school and studied art and I used to manage a space in San Francisco that was similar in that I facilitate people’s shows coming together. Whether it be someone asking to show at a particular space, never really soliciting artists, just kind of helping people.

Neill: Connecting people.

Murphy: Yeah, at Adobe Books in San Francisco. It’s nice working with people who aren’t established and Alex was kind of keenly interested in my background, thought it was interesting and a different perspective.

Neill: Did you two meet there?

Murphy: No, we met down here actually, in LA.

Knost: My artistic background is in creating my own body of work, which at times is a tug of war because it’s hard to promote something that you create on your own. With Daniella’s knowledge of art and being selfless towards it...I thought it was charming that Daniella’s resume was in art appreciation. It created a platform. She works in LA.

Murphy: I work at a space that’s a residency and exhibition space. It’s a non profit called Fahrenheit and it’s sponsored by the FLAX Foundation which is a French foundation that facilitates French artists coming to LA and having a cultural exchange and introducing French artists in the LA context. But moving away from that, being here now more so than in LA, there’s this palpable feel here. There aren’t that many art spaces like in Orange County or this direct environment.

Neill: For better or worse there’s a lot of art aimed at tourists and the real housewives in Orange County.

Murphy: We like to see these works insinuating themselves in those homes though.

Knost: In any creative sense, I feel artists or musicians or people that are striving to create art, there’s a heart and a vibe, there’s the original area where they started and then where they’ve gravitated towards. It’s getting harder and harder for artists who solely want to create and not have to work at a café or bank off their inheritance or whatever they got, to live in places like Los Angeles and New York or San Francisco. It’s so expensive.

Murphy: As it always has been. It’s nice to have this space here, as opposed to LA.



Neill: What makes Costa Mesa the place?

Knost: From my perspective, my way of romanticizing it is we came here because this is where I grew up. I always thought of it as this bleak flat mesa in which a lot of people, since the 70s and even more so in my generation, have been great artists, musicians, who have solely been able to abide by their own facilities because there’s a lot of industrial buildings. There’s a large Latino community and they’re not as uptight and then there’s this sharp contrast with Newport Beach where it’s very consumer. You’ve had a lot of these artists and musicians residing here out of affordability and it’s always kind of seemed more of a comfortable habitat rather than a stepping stone or pedestal or something in order to grasp for vantage to be in Hollywood or something like that. It’s much more feasible.

Neill: A different headspace.

Murphy: It’s also as if socializing is a curator and artist’s metabolism. You have to go out and make those connections. So we’re trying to facilitate those connections down here. This space will hopefully be generative of it. Not just with this show, this space will be for other kinds of projects as well. 

Neill: Will CMCAC be primarily visual art or will there be music or performance?

Murphy: There’ll be performance and installations. When I walk into a space I just always want something experiential. You know something affecting, not necessarily nice art on the wall.

Knost: I believe that in calling it the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center is that, although you can look at this body of work and regard it as a decorative or abstract expressionism or anything like that, this environment becomes valuable. Justin’s work, for example, it’s very much an excruciating manifest. It’s not as if he’s a type of fellow that would go here or schmooze there to gain his repertoire. I think that in having him present his body of work as the first show is a flag in recognizing that something conceptual is obviously the thought process taking the precedent or the state of being and I think it’s very well exemplified in his work.

Neill: Is there an ultimate goal for the space? Do you want to expand it or take it as it goes?

Knost: I think the content of what passes through here obviously will amount to much more and spread its tentacles, but as far as expansion, it’s a humble environment. It isn’t as much of a progressive capitalist type thing. That’s why we called it a center, as to kind of make it communal and never ending expansion. Not ‘here’s our ceiling, here’s our goal, here’s this acute area in which to achieve.’ 

Neill: Would you ever display your own work?

Knost: Of course. The refreshing thing about doing something like this is that you’re watching all the pieces fall and being at ease with that.

Neill: Do you have roles when you’re working together?

Murphy: It’s definitely collaborative. It’s not the most formal of spaces, but it’s true to Alex’s ethos and he’s generously allowed me to partake. It’s fluid. As far as decisions with the show here, we’ll both have a say, we’ll both contribute.

Knost: We’re very open, very lax, very non-appointed. I think maybe in the first year of developing galleries and exhibition spaces, it’s always a push and pull thing. It’s usually quite aggressive, as if there are chiefs that appoint Indians that can take credit and vice versa. You know, a lot of hunter-gatherers doing so strictly to have a resume. Where as here, between Daniella and me, with the artists or musicians, poets or writers, the people that want to showcase their work, there’s more of a general consensus. 

Murphy: It’s based on aesthetic considerations, of course. We have a lot of friends who make work who we won’t show here.

Knost: We’re not scratching people’s backs. That’s not our goal. There has to be something present in it that we find circumstantial.

Neill: Has surfing influenced how you perceive art and how the creative process?

Knost: Of course, it’s an existential struggle. In surfing, there’s a balance of greed between this macho hunting for waves, outsmarting the other population, but then there’s also the embarrassment. I feel that great artists are willing to obtain greatness from despair and the complications that arise from that. In that sense, you realize that sometimes a stride can be an embarrassing one…at most a very human one. I believe that art that I find intriguing has its faults.

Neill: How did you and Kim Gordon meet/come to create together?

Knost: We had mutual friends...one gal who sells and shows her art, her husband is a filmmaker who I know. One of the groups that I’m in, performed for his after party for one of his films in New York maybe two years ago. I met her at the event, we played pool. She was working on her body of work, but needed fiberglass. I work with fiberglass, so I eventually assisted her on some works for a show she had coming up. Along the line, her being a musician, we had some free time and we ended up recording and making that record [Glitterbust] and she went on to have her show and it was great to be a part of that. The record was something that I believe we’re both quite proud of.


Justin Adams' exhibition Dancing Baby will be on view until December 17, 2016 at The Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center, 930 Placentia Blvd unit B3 Costa Mesa, CA. text and photographs by Douglas Neill. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Creative Taxonomies: An Interview Of The Brainchildren Behind The MIXER App

You can find out more about Mixer here.

I first met the guys from MIXER about a year ago when they invited me to one of their infamous launch events at a private studio in Downtown Los Angeles. The gathering was a mixture of creatives and people within the art, fashion and music worlds - there was a definitively dynamic energy that didn't all feel like a bland networking party. In fact, the energy felt the same way as their app - an exclusive social and professional networking platform that allows people to connect in major cities, like New York and Paris. In today's social and political climate, the MIXER app is more important than ever. Why private? – As you'll learn in the below interview, the founders of the app didn't want the thirst for self promotion to get in the way of basic ambitions. It's a fascinating idea and the app is a must have tool if you want to enter any aesthetic industry. In the following interview, Autre chats with the guys behind mixer – about its place in the creative world and its goals for the future. 

AUTRE: I'm curious, where did the Mixer app idea come from initially? 


ANIS: The initial idea came up two years ago when our co-founder Alex Carapetis [drummer for Julian Casablancas & The Voidz] was touring in Europe. We were chatting and thought that as a musician, it would be perfect to be able to connect with other creatives in all those cities”. The idea came from there.

CODY: I was working on a project with our investor Ronald Winston that was focused around connecting people when I met Anis and soon everything meshed together.

AUTRE: Most apps are public, but Mixer is private - why is exclusivity important when it comes to connectivity? 

CODY: The initial idea between having a “private” network is to ensure that the app wouldn’t devolve into a platform driven primarily on self-promotion and brand building. We believe there needs to be a clear delineation between artists and enthusiasts. Eventually, we would like to broaden our base to help the inspiring creatives in their learning and discovery efforts – but for now, we are trying to provide a space for artists to connect with one another without the sometimes coercive effects that come with trying to broaden one’s fan base or following.

AUTRE: You can create a social app, but how do you connect it to all the creative people out there that would benefit from it?

CODY: I think what you are asking is essentially “how do we grow the network?” after building the app. The best growth tool is providing actual value to the user and from those successes, word spreads through a number of different of channels – whether that’s press, or word-of-mouth, or some other means.

AUTRE: Before the app was released, were there any downsides found in other social apps that you wanted to avoid with Mixer?

CODY: We found that there was not something that directly solved the problem of our target users. Instagram was a great way to curate your creative content, put your ideal self out to your fans and peers, and ultimately build your personal brand. We wanted something that was solely focused on artist-to-artist interactions. We want to extend the moments shared on social media into multimedia projects. We wanted to give members the quickest way to find other creatives they are interested in potentially working with through a focused community, efficient interface, and context-driven profiles.

ANIS: Looking at the landscape of social networks these days; you have broad platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn that are not purposely built for creative networking. Then you have narrow verticals such as Behance for graphic designers, Soundcloud for musicians, 500pixels for photographers, etc. These platforms are utilized to broadcast your work as a creative instead of connecting with other creatives that may represent an interest to you. In our case, we wanted to englobe all these different verticals in the creative industries – arts, fashion, film, and music – because we truly believe that they are all connected. And we wanted to focus on “connecting” rather than “following”. 

AUTRE: You throw some great parties and release events for the app, what makes a perfect party?

ANIS: Hah, thank you! To me, it comes down to a cool and small spot, a private concert performed by a good musician who can then come and hang with his public, and obviously a fun crowd. Oh and also Alex on the drums.

AUTRE: What do you hope people find when they download the Mixer app? 

CODY: We hope that they ultimately at least make one real connection or make move forward at least one unique opportunity that they might not have had anywhere else. Ultimately, Mixer is currently not about maintaining your currently relationships, it’s about finding new ones. We are a discovery platform.

ANIS: What I personally hope: having people discover good creatives in the platform and end up connecting and working with them. What I personally hate and want to avoid: people who use it to exclusively connect with celebrities.

AUTRE: Instagram is basically a social connector app, how does Mixer differ?

CODY: Instagram is the greatest visual content platform ever created. You cannot share moments of your life and work with as much ease anywhere else. Instagram has to build a platform for the entire world – we are going for a much more targeted audience, which gives us some flexibility in building the product. We give our members access to a vetted community – we allow them to build out their projects or put more information about their work that Instagram really isn’t tailored for. We are allowing members to put up listings where others can indicate that they are interested – which works much more efficiently than screenshotting your Notes app and putting out a call to your followers.

ANIS: I would also add that Instagram is more of a broadcasting tool rather than a networking tool.

AUTRE: Do you hear about amazing success stories from people connecting on Mixer?

ANIS: It’s hard to keep track of what happens after the connections. We definitely see photographers and short film directors connect with models and shoot them, and a lot of them thank us for allowing them to do so. When it comes to musicians, because the creative process is much longer, it is a bit early for us to find out whether the connections made so far have transformed into successful collaborations. But hopefully we will be able to tell soon.

AUTRE: A lot of the people on Mixer have a number of professions in different fields, like art and fashion, what is the biggest industry on Mixer by far? 

CODY: Right now, there isn’t really a “biggest industry” by far. The distribution of Art (art, photography & design), Music, Fashion, and Film is surprising equal. The content on our platform is a bit skewed because photographers and models post much more frequently.

AUTRE: What is your favorite feature on the Mixer app?

ANIS: I personally like the fact that you can research people based on city and occupation.

CODY: Yes, I think one of the most powerful features is the filtering system in our member discovery. We ask members to identify their “profession” in the application process and review their selections as we classify our members. Correct taxonomy and classification are very important when you are trying to find exactly who you are looking for.

AUTRE: A lot of creatives live in major cities, do you extend Mixer as a tool for people in more remote areas that may benefit from connecting with creatives in culture capitals?

ANIS: We decided to focus at first on big cities such as NYC, LA, Paris and London, because those are indeed the biggest hubs for creatives. But a network effect will definitely get creatives from smaller cities to sign up and be able to network and collaborate with people all over the world, simply through their phones.

AUTRE: What is the criteria for getting an invite to Mixer?

ANIS: Anyone can refer his/her friends, and anyone can sign up, even un-referred. But in order to be approved, you need to be able to qualify through your work in the arts, fashion, film, or music industries. When we look you up, we need to see some references on you. And being referred by an existing user also helps a lot.

AUTRE: What's next for Mixer?  

CODY: We are focusing on helping members easily finding opportunities for collaboration and connect with one another. This means helping members easily create (and add to) their portfolios from information they have spread across the web and social accounts, we are always working to make finding the person with a specific skill set and vision that you are looking for.

ANIS: Product-wise, we’re adding a jobs section pretty soon, where companies and creatives will be able to post detailed job listings and recruit other creatives. Growth-wise, while still growing in the cities we are present in, we would like to start hitting other European capitals like Berlin and Milan in a very near future.


 photograph by Jason Sheldon. text and interview by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE



 

Synesthesia From A Higher Power: An Interview Of Double Diamond Sun Body

text by Summer Bowie

When Miles Davis scored Louis Malle’s Elevator To The Gallows, he took a wild approach that was as daring as it was genius. He simply watched the film from beginning to end, took some notes, wrote a few themes in his hotel room and then handed them to a small band in the morning. From there they followed his lead as he improvised his way through a second screening of the film. He didn’t read the script, he didn’t speak French, and he certainly didn’t know much about French new wave. Miraculously, the result was uncanny in its ability to capture the very essence of loneliness and desperation. He had an incredible facility for processing an image and then giving it a sonic projection that glides past the intellectualization process and rings clear as a bell right in the central nervous system. Thus is the facility that is immediately evident in the work of Robbie Williamson, otherwise known as Double Diamond Sun Body.

He is a musician first and foremost, but his work has expanded into a multitude of mediums over the course of his lifetime, and right now his creative juices are bursting and radiating in all directions like a newly born star. Though, that’s definitely nowhere close to the way that he would describe himself. He’s a humble soul with a genuine sense of curiosity, all of which is underscored by a mystical je ne sais quoi. He spent over a decade scoring films and television before he started experimenting with performance and making his own films to accompany his soundscapes, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, this work has proliferated and evolved to include installation, sculpture and paintings, and is now finally culminating in his first solo show at MAMA Gallery in Los Angeles, entitled Saffron Crow’s Associate. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling a little dissociated while experiencing the work. If you submit to that feeling, it becomes an otherworldly adventure that allows you to zoom out and observe Earth from a bird’s eye view. We had the chance to sit down with the artist and talk about his musical beginnings, his spiritual investigations, and the wonders of human nature.

Summer Bowie: Let’s start at the very beginning, where did you grow up?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I grew up in Seattle.

Bowie: What was the atmosphere like at the time? Did you always have creative ambitions and were they always nurtured while you were growing up?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, my atmosphere was music in Seattle. I grew up just skateboarding a lot and playing in bands. I would play shows during the era of Nirvana and Soundgarden, and a lot of punk bands from D.C.––that Dischord label––people like Beefeater and Fugazi.

Bowie: Wow, so you were fully in that world while it was happening in Seattle.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I was really entrenched in it. I was in a record label called C/Z Records and playing a lot of shows and touring.

Bowie: What kind of band were you playing with at that point when you got signed?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I was playing with a band that was very math rock, super intense, just very complicated arrangements mixed with punk––that kind of music.

Bowie: That’s amazing! What were you playing?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I was playing bass.

Bowie: And when did that start?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I started when I was fifteen. And then from there I moved to Portland and played in a band called Hitting Birth.

Bowie: Wow, what kind of music was that?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was very theatrical. Sort of industrial, but very light. Not industrial aesthetically but sound wise it was very rhythmic and heavy, but aesthetically it was lots of white clothing and colors, and the opposite of what you’d think industrial would be.

Bowie: Crazy. And how’d you get into composing music for films?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I wrote a film called Dandelion that starred Vincent Kartheiser from Madmen. I wrote that with my friend and we got it made. It ended up doing really well, went to Sundance and winning a bunch of awards in different festivals around the world. That was the first film I scored. That film did pretty well and a lot of people started asking me to score their films based on that movie, so that’s how I got into it. I just kept going with it and never stopped for a decade.

Bowie: I love that. And there’s really a spiritual aspect to what you do––something kind of ‘other­worldly.’ When did you first get introduced to this side of yourself - or was it always there?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was always there - since I was around twelve. You know, it started normally with Carlos Castaneda books and stuff, then it just kinda grew and never stopped growing. I don’t know, it was something that was always with me. It came from reading. Then I joined a lot of different groups that were studying various esoteric things. And I never really expressed it as much as I do now because I was always doing things with other people.

Bowie: Wow, and were your parents a part of this or was it just completely your own thing?

Double Diamond Sun Body: It was my own thing, and then when I was around twenty I started to do some things with my mother.

Bowie: That’s so beautiful. And then your name Double Diamond Sun Body...where did it come from and when did you decide to adopt it?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I took on that name from something that I read a couple years ago. It’s hard to explain but it has to do with the Christ embodiment or sort of like a Christ consciousness or Christ energy 2.0.

Bowie: Heavy.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I really resonated with the ideas around that and how that energy integrates into modern life. So the name just really resonated with me.

Bowie: It seems like a lot of that ethos was evident in your former band, We Are the World, but that work was much different than your current work. What was the creative mission behind that project?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I don’t think there really was a mission. It was a group of creative people coming together and going off the cuff, ya know. There wasn’t a mission but a lot of people interpreted it that way, like they would see us as a cult, or see our performances as very cult­ish and always wanted to know what it meant. I think it was just the right combination of people that exuded that kind of impression, but there wasn’t an intention, you know what I’m saying?



Bowie: Yeah, just a performative exploration as a group. And do you like being in a band or do you prefer performing solo?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think that all the different projects I worked with I really enjoyed, but they’ve each served their purpose in getting me to where I am now. I couldn’t really foresee being in another band, but I’m really glad that I was for so long.

Bowie: You blend music and performance in a really unique way. What kind of emotions are you trying to convey or evoke through the energy of your music and your performances?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think in general I’m trying to express the utter mystery of life and what we’re all doing, while embracing very traditional actions and very traditional institutions in terms of very basic spirituality. Trying to hone that down to a basic thin––not making it very complicated. Traditional values of family, physical labor, children, simple colors, and combining those energies with the ambiguous, ethereal nature of the music. When you combine those two you get something interesting.

Bowie: And do you feel that you’re on a journey or a spiritual path that you’re exploring with your work that’s separate from your own life trajectory? Or are they both one in the same?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think they’re absolutely one in the same. One couldn’t exist without the other.

Bowie: Your show at MAMA is very unique because it’s the first time that your pursuits as a fine artist will coalesce into something much grander. Can you describe the show and its meaning? Particularly, the meaning behind its title?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, Saffron Crow’s Associate is about an entity named Saffron Crow and his associate. They are off­planet entities that visit Earth to basically just check it out. They’re flying by to see what’s happening. They get here and are immediately enamored with the way in which races coexist and battle each other more or less. They’re also very interested in the way the media perpetuates this sort of battle. They find it really unnecessary and sort of comment on all of this, while presenting simple solutions to the problematic way that the races react toward one another.

Bowie: Can you give us an example of any of those solutions?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think that they really are of the opinion that races should try to have more pride in their race, versus trying to shove their race down other races’ throats, and say “accept me, accept me!” That goes for white races too. All races should. And simultaneously I think they really say that you should have mad respect for all races while letting them be sovereign entities and not give into this forced assimilation constantly. Again this is all their opinion. They think it just causes more problems.

Bowie: Do you believe in a higher power or spiritual enlightenment? Do you think that humans have lost sight of this side of themselves?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I don’t think that question can really ever be answered––in the way that I think any answer to that question would be a complete assumption. So yeah, I would leave it at that. But I think for someone like them and me­­because I feel as though I’m channeling them­­there’s something going on. I would be absolutely floored if this was all a result of stars colliding into each other and bacteria growing.

Bowie: So if you were an alien that came to this planet are these the first impressions that you believe you would have regarding human nature?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I think I would. If I really imagine another planet or another race of beings that live there, the last thing I’m gonna do is think, “Oh there are these beings living on this planet.” I would think, “Wow, there’s several types of beings on this planet and they don’t get along? They have bombs pointing at each other, and still don’t understand each other, and are still fighting for equality?” and I’d be completely enamored by this.

Bowie: How does sound play into that aspect of the show?

Double Diamond Sun Body: I’m working with colors and tones in the notes. Specific notes go with specific colors. So the sound of the show is going to be very meditative and very different than the music that I’ve been performing live. When there’s a certain message or certain subtitle, or color, there is a corresponding tone to accentuate the message.

Bowie: It’s almost like you’re sharing a sense of synesthesia with us.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Absolutely. It’s subjective to the most of my ability. But work like that is highly mathematical. Somewhere in the universe of Earth there are objective equations that can get information across better via color and tone. However, I’m no expert at it, but I’m trying to incorporate that to the best of my ability, which will work for some people, but it might not do anything for others.

Bowie: I guess we won’t know that until the show.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be very different for everyone.

Bowie: Well, where do we go from here? What’s the most important lesson that we should learn as a species?

Double Diamond Sun Body: In my opinion, I think there should be less identification. That’s what Saffron’s talking about in the intro of the film when it says, “come with me to observe the animal.” I think that that’s what the show is about, observing the animal. And the animal is only an animal when it has lots of identifications. And when you can observe yourself and not identify with everything all the time, then you’re opening yourself up to some potential.

Bowie: My last question is why is Saffron Crow’s Associate the pointed figure?

Double Diamond Sun Body: Because Saffron Crow only speaks when he really wants to speak and he’s busy. So his associate does most of the commentary, but Saffron does appear a few times.

Bowie: Gotcha­­I like it. So sort of like the way Double Diamond Sun Body is just channeling something higher.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Yeah, maybe Double Diamond Sun Body is someone else’s associate.

[laughs]

Bowie: Yeah. Awesome, thanks so much.

Double Diamond Sun Body: Cool, that was nice. Thank you.


Double Diamond Sun Body "Saffron Crow's Associate" will be on view from November 5 to December 5, 2016 at MAMA Gallery, 1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles. Text and interview by Summer Bowie. Photographs by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


New Street History: An Interview of Legendary Japanese Photographer Keizo Kitajima

You could say that Keizo Kitajima is an heir to the Provoke photography movement’s electrifying foundation and principle idea that a photographic image can be a completely new type of language. It’s a language fired from the shutter of a camera – a lexicon that can encapsulate a fraction of a moment, yet recite an epic in a single explosive image. Often blurry, out of focus and with choking contrast, the short lived movement made icons out of photographers such as Daido Moriyama. Moriyama also seemed to have the most influence, especially on Kitajima who was encouraged to carry on in the tradition of Provoke, but also expand beyond its confines – to travel the world and to see if that same language could tell a more universal story. Kitajima made his way  to New York in the early 80s – a pivotal time when the streets were alive with a new breed of bohemia and fervent creativity. His resultant images from the six months spent on the beat in Manhattan resulted in some of the best documentation of the era. In 1990, Kitajima traveled to the USSR to photograph the last glimmer of the Soviet Union – all on rich, saturated, extinct Kodochrome film. Currently, Kitajima has an exhibition of works spanning his entire career on view at Little Big Man gallery in Los Angeles. Featuring vintage and new prints, it’s a perfect glimpse into the oeuvre of a lesser-known photographer that deserves to be a legend. Autre got a chance to catch up with Kitajima to ask a few questions about his work and to discuss why he could never make a photo book about Los Angeles. 

OLIVER KUPPER: So, first off, thank you. I appreciate your time. My first question is: what are some of the greatest lessons you learned at the Workshop School?

KEIZO KITAJIMA: There was no formal class there but I was very influenced by [Daido] Moriyama. Basically, Moriyama taught me how to think and how to look. And, those lessons are still with me today.

KUPPER: Interesting. And you knew about him, breaking out of the transcript a little, but you discovered his photography earlier than the school, as a teenager right?

KITAJIMA: Yeah, at the end of my teens.

KUPPER: How did you discover his work? I mean, obviously he is a big force in Japanese photography, but what was it about his work that was so electrifying?

KITAJIMA: Moriyama is famous for his Provoke photographs, for the destructive qualities of his images. This is what attracted me. It was not just Moriyama but also photographer Takuma Nakahira who I was drawn to for his rather dangerous and challenging writing and thinking which broke down prejudices. And, Nakahira was of course also producing images that looked like Moriyama’s as well.

KUPPER: Do you feel like you were carrying on the tradition of modern Japanese photography or were you trying to break totally new ground?

KITAJIMA: Of course I was critical of modern Japanese photography. But, at the same time, even the criticism of that work could only become another kind of modernism.

KUPPER: When you’re visiting New York or USSR, do you go in with a specific approach. When you’re commissioned to do specific series do you go in with a specific plan or is it totally improvised?

KITAJIMA: No plan. I just figured it out when I got there.

KUPPER: Is that intimidating?

KITAJIMA: No, not really. It wasn’t scary.

KUPPER: Can you describe the energy you’re feeling when you’re shooting in the streets or a night club? And, are you trying to transfer that energy to the photographs you’re taking?

KITAJIMA: When I’m in a city, I respond to things on many different levels. So, I might walk down the street and say “that’s a pretty girl” or “that’s a sad looking sky” or “this is dirty” or “this is beautiful.” Taking photographs is a kind of system for synthesizing these things. Film expresses these things in many different ways. For me, photographing in a city means to expose what’s inside of me. I try to do that as specifically as I can. I don’t just have one way of looking at things and I try to make clear the many different ways of looking at things. A baby, when born, knows nothing and as the baby grows up it will eventually get taken up by various systems which is not part of its control. In other words, the subject is created by society. So, in a sense then, the society is actually the real maker of my photographs. The fact that I speak Japanese is totally out of my control, it’s just something that is imposed on me from outside.

KUPPER: So the photographic process is almost automatic in a way.

KITAJIMA: I think about these things while photographing constantly. After taking photographs every day my mind kind of became like this.

KUPPER: So, this is a less philosophical question: you have an amazing photograph of Mick Jagger, sort of iconic of that New York series. Can you talk a little bit about how that image came about?

KITAJIMA: I saw The Stones walking down the street, from their bus into a bar called St. Mark’s Grill. I just kind of wandered in there. I encountered them. For me, New York is a place where you can see Andy Warhol or some other star and on the same street meet a beggar.

KUPPER: Did you ever spend time with any of these artists at the time or was this something you were just photographing from the outside?

KITAJIMA: I took photographs at The Factory once but I wasn’t spending a lot of time with him or other artists.

KUPPER: When you’re producing the pictures of negatives, do you imagine them more in photo books or on gallery walls?

KITAJIMA: It’s changed. When I was young I wanted to make photo books. After New York I stopped; I didn’t feel I wanted to make books as much afterwards. In the past five years I’ve become more interested in making photo books again.

KUPPER: As a teacher yourself, what kind of wisdom can you impart to our generation of photographers, especially in a digital world?

KITAJIMA: If it was ten years ago maybe I would have had some advice, but now I feel that there is nothing for me to say.

KUPPER: How do you feel about the digital revolution in photography?

KITAJIMA: In Japan, everyone is talking about what is digital or what’s the difference between digital and analog but the only thing we can do is get used to digital. Let’s get used to digital. But, I’m speaking about my own generation. For question of what looks like photography or what is photographic, the answer is different for my generation or for younger generations. Old people who look at digital photographs might say “this isn’t a photograph,” or younger people who are only used to seeing digital photographs might look at an older photograph and think “this is a really weird photograph.” But that’s photography. There is no original in photography.

KUPPER: So for this show, it’s a little bit of everything. Was it difficult to curate the show or pare things down?

KITAJIMA: Well, Nick did most of it.

KUPPER: Okay. And there are also some color photographs which people don’t usually see. Do you like shooting in color, working with the embrace of color? There’s a different energy between black and white.

KITAJIMA: I’m only taking color photographs these days but I don’t use monochrome film because I’m using a digital camera now. There’s just no need to make that black and white. The difference that I see is when you’re taking a color photograph the color is also an object. In other words, that you could take a photograph of something just because it is blue. Or red! Color is on par with taking a photograph because of the object properties of it. Color is a very important question.

KUPPER: Last question, if you were to make a photo book about LA, what would it look like?

KITAJIMA: I really like the West Coast in general and Los Angeles in particular. If I was going to take photographs on the West Coast my rival would have to be Karl Watkins. I’m very interested in photographing Yosemite, where Watkins’ photographs are from but if I were to photograph LA it would be desert landscapes. LA is an artificial city built in the middle of the desert.

KUPPER: Yeah. It would the desert city of Los Angeles.

KITAJIMA: It would be really difficult to make a book in LA because I only take photographs when it’s cloudy or rainy.

KUPPER: So you can never take photographs in LA.

KITAJIMA: Yeah, it’s basically impossible.

KUPPER: There’s maybe two days a year so not much career in that. You’d have to work quickly.

KITAJIMA: Well today was a little cloudy and overcast. On Monday I’m going to Joshua Tree, it’s like being on another planet.

KUPPER: Yeah, totally, like being in outer space. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.


Keizo Kitajima's exhibition New Street History is on view now until November 27 at Little Big Man Gallery in Los Angeles. text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Translation assistance by Dan Abbe. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE